This story begins with a young woman on her knees

Begging for her life. Dear God, she says, let it be clear.

Please, let it be clear. But the new life inside her is already 

Crawling through forests of white fluid. She won’t see it, but

Her body (& the baby in it) will perform a perfect arc

Through the mall’s deep atrium before landing at the feet

Of a dazed 3-man string section. They will continue to

Play, in fear, a speeded up version of ‘How High the Moon.’

The cellist will forever think that the girl’s graceful parabolic

Leap was really a one-word review. He heard her say it,

The one word, ugh, & then he saw the handkerchief 

Stuffed in her mouth and he knew what she did: took off her

Shoes, hung her handbag on the 13th floor railing, transferred

Her tiny lace hanky to her mouth, then climbed up to sit 

On the handrail as if she were sitting by a swimming pool,

Dipping her toes into the water. But all of that comes later.

Right now she’s on her knees, as I said, a prayer bright on

Her red lips, the handkerchief clutched in her hand. 

That’s how this story ends, the same way it began, with 

A young woman on her knees, begging softly for her life.


Jeet Thayil (born 1959) is an Indian poet, novelist, librettist and musician. He was born in Kerala and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay. He is the author of four collections: These Errors Are Correct (2008), English (2004), Apocalypso (1997) and Gemini (1992). His first novel, Narcopolis(2012), was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. He is the editor of Give the Sea Change and It Shall Change: Fifty-Six Indian Poets (Fulcrum) and Divided Time: India and the End of Diaspora (Routledge).