Case History of Pain


You should be able to pinpoint it: abdomen, upper half,

left side, a hand’s breadth from the last floating rib.

Compare it with ballpoint’s prick or knife’s stab—

we were taught in medical school. That winter when the sun

bleached, and roads jacketed in snow, I saw a grainy green

chameleon on a branch, his beaded eyes peeling away

excuses that kept me spooning Plath’s tulips. Leaving me

hungry for whistling Malabar thrush. Hungry for donuts

dunked in sugar syrup—sweet at first, then tart on tongue.

Hungry for wind saturated with salt. Your bent knees were peaks, and

my body moored into your valley; borrowed the orchestra of your breaths—

in and out, in and out,                              long and loud gasp.            

That winter I feared greasy, five-toed depression. Its coiled tail.

Its pale, flaking skin. That winter when I asked my father to

drive me to the therapist, he told me: Bear, Bear like a man.

That winter, dread spread in mom’s eyes, when I rode shotgun in the car.

Friends wishing—Go to God. Begging in scented temples,

my prayers hissing in ears like clumsy bells. That winter I fell upon

dreams, changing colours—gunmetal sky, burgundy bruises,

pea-soup fog. That winter the psychiatrist said: Your disease is fictional.

Depression is alive only in black and white. That winter I kept

searching for lithe silhouettes as reptile’s eyes scanned my body.

That winter I wished for wicker coracle of sleep. Dreamt of eyes

hidden in whopping cyclones. Woke up to eyes beaded in jet-black sky,

craving sleep again. Like a prisoner pardoned for a crime

he didn’t commit. That winter before the chameleon cracked

whip of tongue, I learnt that pain is only pain with a name;

searched for sounds in the language sheltered in my bones.

It is unholy to think that the war is over when guns

stop shooting. When he rolled back his tongue to swallow me,

I kept running and running and running

                                                                from the pistol of his eyes.

KINSHUK GUPTA uses the scalpel of his pen to write about his experiences as an undergraduate medical student. He was longlisted for the People Need Change Poetry Contest (2020), The Poetry Society, UK. His haiku have been nominated for the Touchstone Awards and the Red Moon Anthology. His work can be read or forthcoming in The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line, Modern Haiku, Haiku Foundation, Contemporary Haibun Online, among others. He currently works as the Poetry Editor at Jaggery Lit and an Associate Editor at Usawa Literary Review.