M

non-alcoholic nights

by Karan Kapoor

 

as my mother sleeps beside him my father furrows his brows thinks of the snake in his spine pigeons in the park hunger Paris terrorists in Kashmir lizard on the wall spelling the illusion she is holding the wall whisky his father’s catheter his liver my hunchback crow’s feet around his eyes boiling milk temples lepers he considers making chai lurks by the stove chooses against turns on the TV listens to a Mohammed Rafi song turns off the TV saunters to the balcony observes the night undressing into dawn blue as Shiva’s throat catches a butterfly resting on the money plant tears it in half thinking the flies under the streetlamps are better off than him looking down on the tarmac wonders what if he has cancer returns to his room turns on the TV listens to the same song turns off the TV reaches his back to scratch an itch counts the people who owe him money the money they owe him drums the name of Rama on his fingertips with his thumb envies the sleep surrounding him yet out of reach unconquered as the sun glares at my mother the melody of her snores alters as she turns to the other side from one dream to another

 

Karan Kapoor has been awarded or placed for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, Frontier Global Poetry Prize, Rattle Annual Prize, Ledbury Poetry Prize, Julia Darling Memorial Prize, Red Wheelbarrow Prize, John & Eileen Allman Prize for Poetry, Orison Anthology Award, and Literary Taxidermy Competition. Their manuscript Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Father was a semi-finalist for the Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize. Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, North American Review, Poetry Online, Colorado Review, Prism Review, The Offing, Strange Horizons, Bellevue Literary Review and elsewhere. They’re an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. You can find them at: karankapoor.co.in.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “non-alcoholic nights”?

This poem is part of a manuscript titled ‘Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Father’. For almost four years, I’ve been composing a profile of my father which also results in a kind of self-portrait. Discreetly observing my father’s restless yet oddly rhythmic movements in the devil hours of the night, this poem began as a list. As many of these images blossomed in each other’s company, I stitched it into prose because I love prose poems and because sometimes poetry needs the palms of prose to contain its unruliness. Here I am trying to step into my father’s stream of consciousness as he struggles with the frustration of insomnia and wavers on the tightrope between waking and sleepwalking.

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