How to Wash a Heart

The following poem is taken from the TS Eliot prize-winning How to Wash a Heart, published by Pavilion Poetry, Liverpool University Press. Beginning life as a performance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Bhanu Kapil’s first full-length collection published in the UK interrogates the complex dynamics between an immigrant guest and citizen host. With a uniquely disarming form and exacting voice, she uses the experience of diaspora to illustrate the limits of inclusion, bodies, hospitality and compassion

Detail from Frank Bowling, Watermelon Bight, 2020. Copyright F.Bowling

I do not enjoy eating too much.
It’s so painful.
The only remedy is the bitter herb
That grows by a rushing brook.
Oils, sugars, pearls, crushed diamonds, linens and songs
Populate your crappy cabinets.
Make a list of what you need
And I will get it, you ungrateful cow.
This is what I need:
The light and the heat and the yesterday
Of my work.
A candle on the wonky table at dusk.
How thyme migrates.
The chalky blue flowers.
I need something that burns as slowly
As that.
Because living with someone who is in pain
Requires you to move in a different way.
You bang the cup down
By my sleepy head.

This article is taken from Port issue 28. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here