Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

jonaki ray


In the sharp formulation of the law of causality-- "if we know the present exactly, we can calculate the future" --it is not the conclusion that is wrong but the premise. —Werner Heisenberg (1927)

Somewhere in the world live bacteria,
colored aubergine like royalty.
Single-celled, neither plant nor animal,
they have no roots, no leaves.
But they harvest sunlight.
They survive.
            That summer, I waited for the man who declared his love for me
            to defy custom and family and marry me.
            We were different—states, language, eating habits.
            I from the East, brought up in the North India.
            He from the South—swept under the Madrasi tag.
            But, these gaps were nothing compared to the immigrant
            student status shared between us.
In the haze of experiencing many firsts—
first cherry blossom spring, first forest-green down jacket, first snowfall in Chicago—
I ignored the warnings—his monitoring my calls, cutting me off from friends
and everything familiar, getting upset at my independent plans, the sudden explosions of rages.
As I watched the green tresses-like DNA fronds and red-centered mitochondria helices
of the bacteria simulate on my computer, I fell:
for love, and hope, and the American Dream life.
            Back home, to everyone else, this life seemed perfect.
            A parabolic curve of good grades, prestigious college,
            full scholarships, and now, the perfect man.
            My college friend choked to death in front of her family,
            a mere month before her wedding.
I was twenty-five and though distress created a dendritic cloud
within me like the web around the light-harvesting bacteria
I forced myself to believe that if they could harvest the light within
and survive, so could we.

Jonaki Ray was educated in India (IIT Kanpur) and the USA (UIUC), and is now a poet, writer, and editor based in India. Honors for her work include being shortlisted for the 2016 Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Contest, and longlisted in the 2016 Writers' HQ Fiction Contest. Her poetry has appeared and is forthcoming in So to Speak, The Lake, Kitaab, The Four Quarters Magazine, Indian Literature, Coldnoon, Silver Birch Press, and elsewhere. She has been selected as a Writer in Residence at Joya:AiR, an interdisciplinary residency program in Spain (Spring 2016); and La Macina di San Cresci, Italy (forthcoming for Summer 2017).