Bhanu Kapil

Notes for Ban: an infantile bank.


Or diptych. A presentation, pre-soaked. Quiet. It's so quiet before a book begins.

So quiet that when my nervous system hurts, so does the sentence, because that's all we have: each other. The sentence and I. We cope.

Met Andrew W. at Coda and after we'd settled down with our millet scones and tea, we made a pact to meet in Colorado, or virtually, a year from now, with novels. Novels set in the UK and that we have not written yet. Why? Some ideas: "Lazy." "Time." Andrew makes a list and when we part, I tuck it in my bag, which rips where the arm of it, the strap, meets the red cloth of the torso. Who wants to pay through the nose for new accommodations? Not I.

This is a bank for sentences. All the tellers are out to lunch. Customers purge on Newsweek and cappuccinno in a central lobby designed so poorly that sometimes, before the agent returns, they leave. Some places, like the sloping bar-stool seats McDonalds pioneered in the late 1980s, eject you from your childhood position.

Anything but talk about Ban. I would talk about pedophilia before I talked about Ban. Her left leg or arm. As a child, I lay down on the bed like a sentence not written yet. Out came a pen. Out came paper. I have a memory of the paper slipping under my hips, for example.

To historicize a somatics is to have a memory of public events that supersedes, perhaps, the grid of touch. Flowers, electricity, and even herbs. I place them in a vase. I flip the switch. A foreign body is a frequency. It's a body flaring with violet light when you look away from the sheet and its matching pillow. These are notes, so I don't have to go there. I don't have to lie down with you. And I don't.

Just as I never write.

Just as I prevent myself from writing at all costs.

Just as I do not love.

Just as I substitute fiction for prose, and prose for the sentences that, like animals.

Like schizophrenics.

Like wolves.

Emit light. Perceptible to the ones who also. Lie down on the ground. Lie down on the ground like that.

I think of a person I loved between the years 2004 and 2007, which were not years. They were hours. "Little hours," as Andrew called them in Coda, a word that bears repeating. I think of how I lay down on the ground for him, thinking he would come, with coffee, and a blanket, but how, when morning came, I had frozen into a new position.

On a bank, where the stems transplant themselves upon our skin. Because we're dead. We lay down on the riverbank and never got up again. Our [*******] turned into red flowers that flared then rotted away, in the banal image of the body's reproductive system appearing outside it, as a gent. The yellow stamen that stabilized the parts of the page that looked boring, when we glanced down at the page, just lying there, with its legs open.


A book of time, for time and because of it.

A book for recovery from an illness. A book that repeats a sentence until that sentence recuperates its power to attract, or touch, other sentences.

A book as much poetry as it is a forbidden or unfunded area of research. The first thing to go when the bank fails. When the bank manager books his vacation to Costa Rica and blanks it out. His commitment. The strength of the British pound. An attendant menagerie of quotients, HR tips, and downtown rent.

I think of Roualt, who burned his paintings "due to criticism." I think of Barbara, who went to the Art Institute of Chicago sixty years ago. She's eighty, I think. Her husband has dementia. He's an alcoholic, in fact, and we're meeting about that. We're meeting in a room. Barbara and I annoy the group when we veer off into conversations about art. Barbara says: "I painted rocks at the Art Institute." She says: "Sometimes I can't draw but I get some nice lines." I invite her to my house and somehow she drives from Fort Collins, shaking like a leaf on its stem. It's Barbara who tells me about Roualt, and about her marriage, which dominated this other part of life. Its feathers. Feral moments so valuable you never share them with anyone else.

Like finances.

Like the writings of Melanie Klein. They are a deep orange with a cream border and though I don't open the book, I keep it next to me as I write.

I go to the cafe to write, but am boxed in by two women close to my age. A bit younger or older. I can't tell. The first one says: "He makes me feel like I'm smart and uber-attractive. Sure, I'm thirty-seven but I look like I'm thirty, don't I? I have to show my ID every time I buy alcohol." And then: "Here's what you'll see. About twenty per cent of the females will be uber-pregnant. The thighs, lard ass." In time, I understand that they are discussing an up-coming high school reunion. "They'll be pregnant," says the second woman, "and fat. Unattractively fat."

Perhaps, I think, I'll set the bulk of my book in Haberdasher's Aske' School for Girls.

Perhaps Ban will be dark, but also crystalline, like a high-school vampire. Like blending something in a pan.

The paper that lines the pan.

For cookies.

"I hate cookies almost as much as I hate white people."

Says Ban, to begin.

To write a sentence with content more volatile that what contains it.

So that the page is shiny, wet and hard.

So that sentences are indents not records; the soulful presence of a vibrant man or girl rather than persistence.

Their capacity to touch you in the present time.

Bhanu Kapil is a British-born writer of Indian origin who lives in Colorado. She recently became a U.S. citizen. She is the author of three full-length collections of experimental prose: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006), and humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009). Another prose work, Schizophrene, is forthcoming from Nightboat in 2011.


  1. When I read this my heart is filled with desire and envy. Bhanu's such a gem.

  2. this writing goes inside writing and pushes the world out the far side. the far feral side that is present & hidden from us, of which "civilized" language is afraid to speak. experiential decolonization in real time, on the page. thank you.