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Biography
Ed Pavlicís second book of poems, LABORS LOST LEFT UNFINISHED, appeared in 2006. His other books are PARAPH OF BONE & OTHER KINDS OF BLUE which won The American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Award in 2001 and his study of African-American modernism, CROSSROADS MODERNISM (2002). His forthcoming books are WINNERS HAVE YET TO BE ANNOUNCED: A SONG FOR DONNY HATHAWAY, an epic poem centered in the life and music of soul singer Donny Hathaway (UGA Press, 2008) and a prose-poetic photo essay set on a dhow off the coast of Kenya, BUT HERE ARE SMALL CLEAR REFRACTIONS (Kwaini? Books, Nairobi). He lives in Athens, Georgia.

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KOLKATA REIGNS

- by Ed Pavlic

 West Bengal. India.  Have an ear-taste.  What a word lens to objects?  This is not a typo.  I mean hold a wordís lens to things. Let vision rain the eye. Turn your face into the wind coming thru the window of the car. Let the sounds rein you in. Take a deep breath.  Count the inhaled parts. Ok, start over.  Wreathed in flowers, Ganesh rides on the dash of the cab. Heís not saying. Up ahead is a flatbed truck. Youíre certain there are physical pieces of it in your mouth. Upon acceleration, whole tires come out of the exhaust. Your lips taste like the green flaking off the rear bumper. You look down, your hands are the exact color of the tarp tied over the load. The camera flails along, always too late, always capturing things just after theyíve become what theyíre not.

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Did you say bumper?  And what are they used for in Kolkata?  You guess more for tasting than for bumping.  Both of the driverís thumbs Morse an endless cadence on the carís horn. Left thumb holds down the key. The driver swerves into oncoming traffic made mostly of bus grills, passes one car, and merges into an eighteen-inch space. His right thumb takes over.  Someoneís thumb answers. Your car now occupies exactly an itselfís-worth of space through which, a horn-thumbís second ago, you couldnít have passed your extended arm. The accordion that, well, accords the behavior of this space is invisible and inaudible. You figure you can tell how far youíve traveled when the thunder arrives. It never does.

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A scooter passes with an impeccably lime-sariíd woman sidesaddle on the pillion made either of a burnt-orange towel or the glow from the blinkers.  You taste the oil-stain in the towelís fringe and the blend of lime and burnt orange moves like sunshine in an ice cube. The brushed steel bends your eye along a handlebar to the grip.  The scooter pilot gecko-necks his wrist, his arm a capital P on its back, and the womanís hair tied back into the elegance of a better sentence than this one pronounced in reverse.  Your right eye shouts as the scooter rides directly into the red grill of an on-coming bus, your left sees it emerge out of the back.

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Let your eyes burn a bit. Keep your mouth open. Lean into it.  Words and / as phrases for the layered galaxy of car horns: dorsalhoned, cacophelonious, infralogical.  The horns sound the ruined beauty of a bi-zillion tons of bad stucco. Under their clothes, the car horns wear the swish of thong sandals on the sidewalk.  An old man at his rig winches juice from cane with one hand, reaches into a parked car and works the horn with his other.

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One slice of silence scrapes your cheek like lightning. For a splayed-open moment Kolkata is silent.  A tiny boy plants his bare feet on the curb and blinks again to no effect.

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The horns signal coherence, signal chaos.  The nuance and nerve-twitch cosmos of a living market.  You can feel shortcuts street kids take while they watch your eyes and read your mind.  A barber works the traffic jam.  Straight razor, dry foam on a pallet, he shaves the driver of a neighboring car who watches in his rearview mirror.  The driverís thumbs donít pause on the horn as if the sound preserves his taut-craned neck and his claim on the space his car occupies.  In your mouth, you taste the flat brass of a moment come alive.  Sold.  Night doesnít wait for day to end.  It passes in a rickshaw, bright sky tied up in a roll, opens east down a motherís sleeve and glows on her sonís face.

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The Baul know death lives in the river and the river moves through every street. Music is lightís way of agreeing to disagree with the dark.

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