By: Chaya Bhuvaneswar




The sentient being is one who can’t put down

                                                   The newspapers, printed for free,

                                                   brown children in white, muddy clothes,

                                                   woman with a wrinkled face, smiling

                                                   trees touching each other’s roots in public parks.

“Buddha”, from “bhut” doesn’t just mean “awakened” –

To recover consciousness (after a swoon). Reviving the scent of a flower’s perfume.

To observe, heed, and pay close attention to.

Understand this: “sentient” mantles, well-worn robes, carry both thinking and feeling,

Perhaps not ever turning back, gentle but not turning away —

Apprehending without capturing.

Yet “sentient” can look like

“Sentinel.” Soldier. Sentry. Soliloquizing surveillant.

Vigilant gatekeeper.  Loaded assailant

Whose overhears the word “Buddha” as garbage sound,

A grunt that’s nothing more than nothingness Butthead.

Round belch emitted from a rounding guardian with a mind. Minder.  

Armed sentinels are those senses are aflame, feelings straight and sharper than gun-blades

Dictate descent. Permit enraged ravage.

Our sentinel refuses to assent that Others might also be sentient.

                                                     Aroused and angry for the less than one percent,

                                                     Who’ve been commanded carelessly, to be less than decent.

“Hack.” “Alpha Charlie,” “Bitchin’ Betty”, “Bolo”, “Bone”, “Burn Bag”

“Chancre Mechanic”, “Dope on a Rope”, “Fart Sack”. “Voice in the Sky.”

My eyes closed, in a lotus pose, I can hear those,

Emitted from some unremitting frequency, word wave that washes over me.

Mind wandering over sentinels, desiderative pricking like a stick

To wish to observe; to desire to become acquainted with.



Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician and writer whose forthcoming debut short story collection, White Dancing Elephants, winner of the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, is available now for pre-order at Amazon and Brookline Booksmith.
Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Electric Lit, The Millions, Joyland, Chattahoochee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Awl, jellyfish review, aaduna and elsewhere, with  poetry in Cutthroat Journal (2nd place in the Joy Harjo poetry contest judged by Cornelius Eady in 2017), Natural Bridge, apt magazine, Hobart, Ithaca Lit, Quiddity and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by diverse women of color.
She recently received the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and a Henfield award for her writing. Her work received several Pushcart Prize anthology nominations this year. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77 for upcoming readings and events.