Numb-Annapoorna Chakrabarty

Illustration by Vaishnavi Suresh

When you stare at the mirror long enough

You go numb

Numb is not

The lukewarm liquid that travels

From your skull down your spine

Switching off a light at each vertebral level

No, that’s disappointment

Do not confuse numb

With the spiny fish bones in your throat

That won’t let your heart talk to your face

That’s denial

Numb will never tell you

To float through the world

Fortified and anonymous

Pain will tell you that.

Numb is not being frozen in the happiest day

Of your life and feeling

Only the kind of happiness you feel everyday

No, that’s contentment


When you’re lying awake at night

Listening for the tightening of bow strings

And the distant war drums of the enemy

Look in the mirror

Right into your own eyes

Your own face

Your own body

Suddenly the ‘own’ disappears

Suddenly it is an exercise in biology

Characterize the creature before you

Genus: Your Species: self


The reflection is no longer you

The eyes that sense it the person that sees it

Isn’t you/

When you’re numb

Neutral is the only gear you run in

Round nose, bushy eyebrows, fat arms, pretty eyes

No, they’re just numbers

Like looking at a circle and seeing

X minus h to the power 2

Plus y minus k to the power 2 equals r squared.

Stupid, jealous, insecure, inadequate

Those are only words

No bow strings no war drums


When you’re numb

This creature

Genus: Your Species: self

Is just another animal on the slab

Pick up your sharpest scalpel

And dissect with impunity

Cut, strip, peel away

Slice open every vein and let the blood flow

Red or Blue or Black

Hunt down every nerve

and follow it to the root/

Touch your warm, beating heart

Dive into the ocean of your unshed tears

Swim in the obscure rivers that feed it

Only Numb will let you breathe under there



Numb will separate you

From this mere mortal

So when you’re forced to go back

Back to being

Genus: Your Species: self

And the bowstrings are taut

And the war drums are no longer distant

You are a warrior


You have seen the color of your blood

The dips and folds of your brain

You have seen the unrelenting doors

You’ve been banging your fists against for years

You know how to keep your hands steady

To smile, as you sharpen the arrow

that will shoot you

And when it pierces your back

You know exactly which screaming nerve

Deafens your brain

You watch them cut along the lines you have already made

You know what you look like

Lying in a pool of your own blood

Red and Blue and Black

And you know

that you are not one of them

You are ten of them

A hundred a thousand

You will survive

Annapoorna Chakrabarty is a 19 year old medical student and a slam poet. She writes mostly about her own experiences and thoughts. In this issue, her submission ‘Numb’ is one of her few poems with a positive theme and comes from a place of weakness that is aware of strength.