Without Representation

No words
sings the sunset
yellow sparrow
No wants

echo his eyes
against the midday
they try to

open but
like a broken

his small body
barely marks

out time
against the tar,

the feather
there is no sound
for this slow loss

of gold, for gossamer
wings clipped in
plastic, dulled brown

On the shores
of Louisiana
the sparrow finds
a different

kind of nectar
in a sieve—
a rough liquid
a collecting paste

there are no sounds
for mercy here
which hovers in air

like a phantom,
in the mouths of
strangers who watch

for him and wait
In this vapor
world, we are

all voyeurs
and cowards
here, there is no

cure for the strain,
for the swell
of throat

and quickening
his small

body cannot carry
the weight
of human wants

of human deeds
his eyes
carry only

small memories
of crackling winds
on silvered streams,

carry only
small hopes
of living

and small visions
of release—
these are

the sighs
which accompany
him as

he stretches
time & against

the taxation
of those burning
watchful eyes—

in one breath,
the metronome

& the song
bird comes

to relief.



As human beings, it may be difficult sometimes to imagine and inhabit a truly non-anthropocentric point of view.  Life, for us, can be simplified by numbers.  In the parlor, over coffee, it might be easy to debate the number of gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf, or estimate the number of days it will take to clean it up, or perhaps, for some, even debate and calculate the number of points the BP stock will rise and fall on a given day of trading.

But how do we account for and enumerate the number of lives lost and the number of livelihoods forever changed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?  How do we fathom the stories of birds, fish, tortoises, dolphins, fishermen, small businesses, and beach-goers—that is, entire ecosystems and communities devastated by the oil-drenched Gulf?  It might be hard to grapple with the number and sorrows of so many voices, which are left wanting and overwhelmed.

But perhaps, though we err as humans, we, too, can find a way back to our own humanity—by owning our responsibility to both our own communities and to all the communities of fish and fauna, aves and insects, vegetation and stone surrounding us.

And by desiring to be active citizens of both global and ecological societies, perhaps, we can go beyond countless numbers, and begin to understand the significance of even one voice—whether it be a voice previously unheard or unknown or whether it be our own.


Rita Banerjee is a writer, and a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.  She received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Washington, and while in Seattle, taught creative writing classes for Real Change newspaper and served as a Writer-in Residence for the Powerful Writers/Pipeline Project.  She has also taught creative writing workshops to children from the red-light district in Kolkata, India through the Kalam Project.  She has published her creative work in Catamaran, The Crab Creek Review, The Dudley Review, Objet d’Art, Vox Populi, and Chrysanthemum among other journals, and is a co-director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop in Cambridge, MA.  Her first collection of poems, a chapbook entitled Cracklers at Night, will be published by Finishing Line Press in November 2010 (order here).

2 thoughts on “WITHOUT REPRESENTATION by Rita Banerjee

  1. It’s great to see and know that a bengali lady is ruling the world. Specially if her name is so close to me. My mom’s name is also Rita. Keep up ur good work.

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