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Rivers by Susmita Bhattacharya


A river runs through my vein, courses red 

and purple along the length of my arm,

takes with it the poison to destroy 

the interloper who’s found a home 

in my breast.  Three hours of feeding 

my body this potion of drugs, I 

stagger outdoors, suck in fresh air, 

while this river burns inside, 

stings, does its job. A river runs 

through the moors, courses clear 

and pure through the heather 

padded land.  White rapids

break the flow, a silver fish swims 


Cold mist envelops me, but I’m burning.

I scan the water, hoping the surge

will cool me down. 

A river runs down  

my eyes. I sit in this landscape and

wait for my body to fight back

or surrender.

Once the river in my vein has reached its 

destination, and started its good work. 

It is better I cry here, alone.

Prepare my smiles

and promises of tomorrow.

I watch

the birds fly back to their nests.

I hear them call to their young – 


returning home.

Safe, for the night.

Susmita Bhattacharya

Susmita Bhattacharya is an award-winning author and creative writing tutor. Her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind (Parthian, 2015, BEE Books, India 2016) was long-listed for the Word to Screen Prize at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2018. Her short story collection, Table Manners (Dahlia Publishing, 2018) won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection (2019), was a finalist  for the Hall & Woodhouse DLF Prize, 2019 and has been featured on BBC Radio 4. She lectures at Winchester University and facilitates writing workshops for young people with ArtfulScribe. 

Twitter: @Susmitatweets

Instagram: @susmita_b_writer

About this poem

I was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago. I lived in Devon at the time, very close to Dartmoor. After every chemo session, my husband would drive us to the moors for me to able to process my thoughts and emotions and for us to just have some time together before returning home to our children. I could feel the drugs rushing through my veins and as the weeks went by, my veins because purple and swollen - like rivers - flowing into every corner of my body. So similar to the landscape we found so much peace in.


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