Three Fifths Compromise & A Life in Relief

by

Archana Sridhar

Three-Fifths Compromise

When I wake up in the morning
I check my stocks
and read the business section over
coffee the color of my skin.

Since the IPO at 60 cents on the dollar
our value zigged up
zagged down
like a Code Blue heart monitor.

Sitting at a trading desk
I’m a lowly analyst of my life
cashing in tweets and retweets
assigning currencies
         options
         shorts
         prices
to names unspoken
         ignored
         murdered
         beaten
         questioned
         searched
         separated.

I run models of personality
or personhood on
elaborate spreadsheets
of constitutionally bound humanity
calculated by taxes paid
            votes cast
            generations removed.

I write a memo to the
investors and higher-ups
footnoted and proofread
with facts and statistics that
         leverage the truth
         cite false equivalencies
         mark how we normalize
buying humanity low
and selling high.

Check the p.m. earnings report
only to see my stocks sinking
equities tanking while
         high-capital celebrities
         elites feigning ignorance
         golfers in oaken rooms
receive pardon and praise.

With time off for bad behavior
their stock price climbing
as we remain only
our selves.

A Life in Relief

           “The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
            and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.”
                  – Rabindranath Tagore, Journey Home

Seenu and I stand under the Arch of Titus
staring over the Roman Forum.

A wild olive tree’s gnarled branches
grow from graft, a frail greenstick

wrapped in burlap
crossed deserts alone, soft

innards gel onto one another,
fuse together, then swell apart.

Junk DNA lurks between our cells, he says,
infecting titanium vertebrae. Bionic

robot army-green steel
struggles over sidewalks,

the stock of rebirthed roots
cleaving solid cement.

Scientists make us live forever, so
we face death unbelieving,

betrayed by nature, squinting
up at a chandelier

through muted sepia slides,
clicking a bygone America.

It was a looting, frozen creatures
danced like a carnival party,

Bengaluru to the Roman Empire,
parading by with a menorah and a treasure chest.



Archana Sridhar is a poet and university administrator living in Toronto. A graduate of Bard College, Harvard Law School and a former Fulbright Scholar, Archana focuses on themes of race, meditation, motherhood, and trauma in her poetry. Her work has been featured in the Brown Orient Literary Journal and The /tƐmz/ Review, and will appear soon in Sidereal, Neon Mariposa, and elsewhere.

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