local_library Eleven Answers to Bhanu Kapil’s The Interrogation of Strangers

by Laura Schaeffer

Published in Issue No. 269 ~ October, 2019

Who are You and Whom Do You Love


I am sunlight through triangles. Cedar bough. Distant firs encircling meadow. A nest buried in thicket. The undefined homes of toads. Sounds not human reaching inward.

Voice of an ancient warrior.


Where Did You Come From / How Did You Arrive


There are cities of light and darkness like a secret held in a palm for a lifetime. Lines press into skin with silent scraping, creating a map that is both memory and home. I am not from here.

Water has made my skin shrivel. Names I can no longer remember, capitals, borders are raised in pale mounds. My hands are a blackboard of chalk. Trails left illegible.


How Will You Begin


To prepare for a journey, take nothing. I left oranges on the counter. I had too many coats.


What is the Shape of Your Body


There are rivers on my belly marking time. I have devoured forests. When he touches my breasts he is careful not to move a finger over fallen limbs. I wish he would kiss each river and tree.


Who Was Responsible for the Suffering of Your Mother


Plateaus where nothing grows. She shouted her name into the canyon and the canyon held it. Silence.


What Do You Remember About the Earth


Ants trying to find their way from one edge of a beach towel to the other. I brushed them off my knee into grass, but they came back unable to resist scent. I was an obstacle in the path.


What Are the Consequences of Silence


When my lover shuts the door of his car, I don’t know when he will be back. The windows are rolled up. My breath is caught in his hair. I can no longer breathe.


Tell Me What You Know About Dismemberment


I feel my skin peeling off, being left behind. I am shedding into ground. I watch the lilies in my vase waiting. After the last pink becomes a silvered purple, dusty rust from the stamen falls. Last night I wiped it away with a sponge thinking it was paprika.


Describe a Morning You Woke Without Fear


Are you saying there is certainty? If I were a god, I could hear what the buds of flowers were saying in their dark room. I’m almost there or I’m almost there. Exploding color. Once in a lifetime.


How Will You / Have You Prepare (d) for Your Death?


My violin is in a black case in the corner of my bedroom. It needs a D and E string, a bridge. I am so love in with it that I let it rest its injury.


And What Would You Say If You Could


Nothing/everything is illusion. I am a web. My lines break into wind. My house is in your mouth.

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Laura Schaeffer is a 2016 graduate of Goddard College’s MFA Creative Writing Program and received her undergraduate degree in English/Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her poetry has been published in The Pitkin Review, Ars Poetica, Currents, Poetry Corners, and The Far Field. She is particularly interested in creative collaborations, writing as resiliency, and poets who have endured displacement and alienation due to war and social oppression. She is currently working on a collection of poems addressing the heroin epidemic.