1072: Under the Bed by Kirun Kapur

20240312 SD

1072: Under the Bed by Kirun Kapur


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

Summers of my childhood, my cousins and I traveled to Tennessee for months-long visits to our extended family. On the way down we stopped in Louisville, Kentucky to visit my mother’s siblings, whose accents delighted me to no end. Those hot days in Nashville with our great aunt Kitty were marked by long, languorous hours of watching TV until the heat broke. Then, we climbed her peach tree and chased her chickens. On the route back to Philly, we visited relatives in Richmond, Virginia who resided in a sprawling ranch home with land. We played flashlight tag long into the blue-black evenings.

One year, due to my grandmother’s illness, we did not make the trip South. I missed my aunts’ amazing home cooked meals that summer. Our cousin, Mina, was sad not to see her favorite kin, so she and aunt Kitty rode the Greyhound bus all the way to Philadelphia. They stayed for a week. She must have been about ten years old, lanky and a spitfire. I remember this trip, especially, because none of us slept the first night.

Shortly after we all retired to bed, Mina screamed. It was piercing. My cousin Mark and I jumped out of our bunk beds and ran to her room. She was sitting up, begging we make “it” go away. I flicked on the lights, and the adults arrived. She continued screaming, pointing to the wall. I saw nothing, but she insisted a monster was staring back at her. Though the bed was barely a twin, her mother climbed in beside her and we all returned to our rooms.

I was off into a deep doze when she yelled again, this time claiming the monster was beneath the bed and had grabbed at her dangling hand. One of my cousins said she just wanted attention. Great aunt Kitty plucked him in the head and scolded him. She said, “She was born with the gift of sight. She can see the dead.” I remembered being scared by this, not fully understanding what my family claimed was her power.

While not the equivalent of glimpsing the spirit world cleave the air, the insight of poets amounts to a kind of clairvoyance. They make connections that close the gap between the known and the unknown.

Today’s extraordinary poem sings this capacity of discernment and intuition, where proximities of horror and love manifest all around us.

Under the Bed
by Kirun Kapur

I didn’t need monsters, I had
history. Didn’t want history, 
I wanted crime—though I had

a girl’s body and the wind
in the palms outside cried steadily,
sounding like rain. I didn’t

need heaven or sin or punishment.
I had a mother. I had a father.
A fine gold sand blew across my face

and the shoreline I stood on changed.
The god who ruled our house
ruled patiently. The god of my heart

devoured me. I didn’t need a heart,
I had a family. A sea pumped that vast
salty love through its chambers.

When I looked under the bed,
I discovered emptiness. Discovering
my emptiness, I sang.

"Under the Bed" by Kirun Kapur. Used by permission of the poet.