HEAVY WATER Poem by Sudeep Sen


There is something deeply arthritic about water and pain, the way water seeps into unexpected fissures in bones, the way it conducts pain itself - operatically and electrically.

This morning I woke up, as I usually do, in pain. It was a new sort of pain, a pain I had not encountered before, so I didn't know how immediately to respond or manage it. All this while, I had sorted and filed each type of pain into neat bearable files, each with their possible recourse to relief, however temporary.

It had rained all night, and this morning it continued without any relief. The sound of persistent rain once provided calm, but all this water-sound, its chaotic decibel, was annoying my breathing, heart-beat and sight.

Whether my sight was blurring due to water battering my retina's windscreen or whether it was triggered on by the slow accumulation of pain in my heart was difficult to measure or analyse. Only intensity and volume mattered - cubic litres, millilitres - almost any equation with letters and numbers raised to the power of three. Triadic superscripts - there lay some oblique clues, but perhaps only to the initiated or those who wished to be part of its intimacy.

The irony of intimacy is such that the closest in the family seem the furthest away. Their attempt to be interested, in spite of being uninterested, ultimately measures pain and its intensity. Intensity is a peculiar thing, its measurements are both tactile and ephemeral, quantifiable and infinite. It is measurable, its heat and depth fathomable, all of this may even have a semblance of being well.

It is the ephemeral that is painful. Water creates all the confusion - its saltiness, its acridity, its mineralised purity, all complete in ways that chemical equations find hard to support or balance.

Families of electrons, protons and neutrons speed away, whirring in patterned loops, forgetting all the while that the heart of their orbit may actually feel and breathe. But in science, as in the ambitious ruthless route of success, there is no room for unscientific thought - as if science and the arts, coolness and emotionality were mutually incompatible or different from each other.

I am in pain, and I just want to cry, cry and cry - so that each searing cry can etch some fragment of a note which has gone unnoticed, so that each measure of pain is no longer diluted for people who listen because they have to.

I wish to paint a canvas that invents new indices of pain and water, for anybody who wishes to listen and bear, for anyone who wishes to understand it, not because they are meant to or rely on sitting comfortably straitjacketed, but because they are moved by it. We need to be moved, moved by the finer chords of music and paint, so that both electricity and opera can operate as they always did, in tandem.

But heavy heart like heavy water is difficult to dissolve - their melting and boiling points register unusual scales - scales that peal and peel, echo and layer, untying each and every fibre that breath requires in order to survive.

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