SELF-PORTRAIT AS CARAVAGGIO
At nineteen I turned myself into a god:
all muscle and sinew, flesh vital as grapes.
I would play the sybarite’s protracted tune
on my boys, my gardenias, my goblets.
Now so many things desert me.
I am a puckered version of my former self,
and this boy considers me with distaste,
forehead furrowed deep, afraid
to get too close. I lay him on cool cloths,
expose one brown nipple, a slim triangle
of chest. But his throat wouldn’t open
even if bitten by a lizard. He’s not
one for coy gestures: a shoulder thrust
in contrapposto, eyebrows arched
like bows. Tempt him with apricots and ripe
cherries, gold ducats and wine. Press him
to accordion and lute. What would be
the point? Body is a dead end. Obscene.
I give him disembodied, then. My head
on a salver. Let that be absolution,
ponderous in the muddy light.
Let the open mouth speak of the body’s
inability to hold on to anything it loves,
except to keep asking for more.
More goblets, more gardenias, and more
bare-chested boys in ruffled shirts.
This selection comes from Bird of the Indian Subcontinent, available from the (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. Order your copy here. Our curator for October is Tausha Fouts.
Subhashini Kaligotla is a poet and architectural historian of medieval India. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA program in Creative Writing and a Kundiman poetry fellow, she has published in such journals as The Caravan, diode, LUMINA, New England Review, and The Literary Review. Anthology appearances include collections of Indian and diaspora poetry, most notably Penguin India’s 60 Indian Poets and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets. Kaligotla is Assistant Professor of South Asian Art at Yale University.
Tasha Fouts is the 2018-2019 SAFTA Writer in Residence at Firefly Farms. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill, Bateau, Glass, Birds Piled Loosely, and Small Portions. She is a co-founder and an editor at Packingtown Review and hosts the podcast Getting Drunk with Writers.