Elegy Written on a Clock Face with No Hands

Rohan Chhetri

Returning from the city late one winter night, 
the taxi I was in hit a stray dog crossing the highway. 
In my drunken haze, I felt the car shrug at the impact, 
and behind a primal yelping that grew fainter 
as the taxi decelerated to a halt. When I stepped 
out, I saw the edge of the bumper had blown apart, 
and the driver started walking back to the site 
without a word. He returned with a green metal cut-out, 
holding it like a meteor fragment, one of his shoulders 
drooping a little with the weight of it. From where 
I stood, under the row of streetlights and the fog, 
I thought he was carrying the limp corpse 
of the dog by the neck fold. 

                Earlier that evening at a party, I’d met 
a man in mourning. His son of eighteen had killed 
himself a year ago, while he was in another country, 
possibly cheating on his wife, he wasn’t sure. 
And now, drunk, he blamed this other woman 
and her country for his son’s death. At some point 
in the evening, I remember wanting to tell him 
about my friend who too had hung himself, 
and how I’ve always wanted to ask if he felt 
the beginning of a great regret somewhere 
in the middle of it, as his face darkened, seconds 
after he kicked the chair and the beast leaped out 
of him, before he finally saw the face of what 
he had done. Or if the last thing he ever felt 
was an unexpected surprise that the ceiling fan 
could actually hold his weight.
                Instead, I told the man how death begins 
as a little rabid wolf perched on the threshold one day, 
hurt, shivering and drooling at the mouth. Outside, 
it is always raining in the dark and the ones like us 
have to keep making up parables for all the dead 
we cannot account for.

                I think of that animal inside us, our double.
That invisible will guiding the dog across the street 
that night, and how in the final moment when 
it sensed the glare of the headlights, a tiny shiver 
of warmth blew on the asphalt, and inside it the other 
animal closed its weary eyes. In the slow startle 
as the bumper smashed its ribs, it heard its own cry 
and heard the other voice inside it too – the brief 
howl that sounded so strange, so unlike its own.