NEURAL NETWORK


SATYA DASH



When he is a kid, his father tells him:

      the scientists decided not to tell us the moon

              is actually the sun in disguise, it knows the laws of light

                    and distance better than anybody else in the universe.

                          The kid doesn’t know his father is drunk. The stink

                              of breath doesn’t disgust him. He treats it

                                 as another strange thing about adults. Now this fact

                                   could have been from a science magazine’s April Fools’

                                    newsletter. It probably was. His father’s mind.

                                   When he grows up, he almost forgets how his father loved

                                 newspapers to the point he wouldn’t have his morning tea

                              until the Times of India arrived like a thick wad

                          of grotesque rags the world had been scrubbed by

                      in the last 24 hours. Now the boy remembers

                 only the newspaper’s logo, two elephants facing each other

          with a shield separating their advancing tusks,

a ribbon below proclaiming Let truth prevail.

          Now it chokes him up to recount a specificity like that.

                 Though he has forgotten the deep baritones of his father’s voice.

                      The boy is not my friend. He is not even an acquaintance.

                          I only meet him once at a poetry workshop. And I become

                              the intimate stranger that kind of lacerating detail needs

                                 to live on. It replenishes my greed for the gifts

                                   of humanity one unknown tongue at one unexpected place

                                    can give another. And the consequence? Thought

                                   splinters, rearranges memory— consider this quiz

                                 book my father brought me, still somewhere in my chest

                              of drawers— what purpose do these relics serve,

                          on the bottom shelves in which of God’s countless

                      cobwebbed museums do they finally end up at?

                 Here, look, I have spent most of my thrumming twenties

          in Bangalore, orbiting the city’s many lakes, sneezing while staring

at desktops with rapt attention, falling in and out of love

          with what is supposed to be the subcontinent’s best weather.

                 And when somebody asks me what is my favorite memory

                      of the city, my first thought is about the golden straw-colored

                          apple cider from the brewery near my apartment

                              that I carried home once, the bottle inside my suitcase wrapped

                                 in a Turkish towel rattling along in a sleeper train, and then convinced

                                    my teetotaler father to taste. He didn’t admit but I could see

                                       he enjoyed its light-bodied floral notes.




Listen to Satya read "Neural Network" below:

white square.jpg
00:00 / 02:48

SATYA DASH (he/him) is the recipient of the 2020 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Waxwing, Redivider, Passages North, The Boiler, Cincinnati Review, Chestnut Review and The Journal, among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He has been nominated previously for Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best New Poets. He grew up in Cuttack, Odisha and now lives in Bangalore. He tweets at: @satya043