Grass – Shankar Narayan

Green green green green
green green grass.  The chemicals
have worked.  Your house—four bedrooms
in eggshell and burnt sienna immaculate
as a virgin birth—is finished.  Now all there is
is the waiting.  What is coma if not an absence of reason
to awaken?  And what is your heart if not the slowly blunting
edge of a lawnmower blade tearing in suburbia?  Take
your turn, black follows white like zebra
stripes flashing desperate across scrub and veldt and then reality’s
teeth ripping bone from living bone, quick enough to render
simultaneously alive and dead, slow enough
to feel as you breathe your perfectly sunburned
breaths.  Lawn care’s worth ten billion—but beyond
your always-on sprinklers California is burning,
all the brush-beasts cleared, concrete pilings sunk
deep as bearfangs in the salmon’s side, crimson
into cold cold water.  You cannot get green
out of your head, never read eviction
papers, never been a mile to the dump where amidst the unwanted
chaises and operational but unfashionable
flatscreens the garbage bears have sniffed out their best meal
in weeks, pull open the sternum, delicately mouth
the entrails, the garments yield easily, pull away an ulna
and amble off, digits trailing red, the eyeballs
with their dribbling blue irises staring
to unknown eternities, or perhaps to your lawn
on which no one but the Mexican caretakers
ever treads, it’s perfect, zero deviations
from normal, and in the mirror your eyes are turning
green, green, and more and deeper green, you’ll spend
what it takes to drain the Colorado, build walls against shapes
that lumber and lurch through you as you wait
and wait, at the doctor’s office, the golf club, in your Jesus
bedroom at night when you’re falling
into views of the blank Sierra.  And what is this body
if not a sentence of slow asphyxiation?


Editor’s Note: This piece was the winner of the 2017 Iowa Sweet Corn Prize in Poetry.



Author Bio: Shankar Narayan explores identity, power, mythology, and technology in a world where the body is flung across borders yet possesses unrivaled power to transcend them. Shankar has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and is a Fellow at Kundiman and at Hugo House. Shankar draws strength from his global upbringing and from his work as a civil rights attorney for the ACLU. His work has appeared in Jaggery, Panoply, Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles, The Litfuse Anthology, WA 129 (a collection of Washington state poems curated by Poet Laureate Tod Marshall), and many other publications. Shankar is a recent 4Culture grant recipient for Claiming Space, a project to lift the voices of writers of color, and his forthcoming chapbook, Postcards From the New World, won the Paper Nautilus Debut Series chapbook prize. In Seattle, he awakens to the wonders of Cascadia every day, but his heart yearns east to his other hometown, Delhi.

The author: Debra Marquart