Longest Duration to Stand Motionless
—Om Prakash Singh stood motionless for 20 hours 10 minutes 6 seconds at Allahabad, India on August 13-14, 1997.
The first night after you smacked my face and I moved
out of your apartment, I walked down to the Ganges.
How could I just go back to my flat? I hadn’t changed
the sheets in three months. I couldn’t imagine
turning the key, pulling the fan’s chain,
lighting the stove for tea. The second night,
I walked down to the river again.
It’s so dirty, Savita. The air was fleshed
with the smell of burning carcass.
I could hear a mother keening up river.
A small funeral raft came toward me.
I saw embers, what must have been a boy’s ribcage
smoldering. And then it passed.
Why those people won’t buy enough wood
to properly cremate their dead children I’ll never know.
It makes me sick. I walked past your apartment building then.
And I doubled back and climbed the stairs past our—
your door, and climbed to the roof.
On the very gravel where we first kissed,
I stood so still and let it come, your smacking me
for staring at the waitress, my refusal to smack you back
like you asked me to, even then—
but it’s not as if I’m bleeding, Savita.
The next night, same thing,
only I didn’t drink any whiskey first.
I stood there until my fingers went numb.
Then, last week, I climbed down the fire escape
and stood in front of your bedroom window
on the rusted metal. But I didn’t look in at you.
You know me better than that.
Terrified of falling, I hugged the wall with my back.
I could hear you though, talking to Punjab
and then your mother on the phone—
both happier for you now, eh? Those same black flies
that would settle in our mangoes were a nuisance,
crawling to the salt in my nose.
Tonight it is my piss running down my leg
and through the metal grate that worries me.
Remember how Mrs. T banged on her ceiling that night
after the football match, yelling through the floor
about her ugly children trying to sleep.
It was after we beat Manchester,
when we fell off the couch fucking
and fucking. Tonight I can hear her sweeping,
humming. I’m afraid she will hear my piss, wonder
and look up and see me. I’m braced-up so hard
against the wall that bits of brick grout
have settled on my neck. But she hasn’t noticed me yet,
and Savita, I wish you could see this, I just—don’t—move.
Instead I stare out at the lights, the darkness,
and the Ganges. I think of the bodies of the untouchables
floating down river and the filth and the wood and the fire.
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