“Operation Unicorn: Field Report” – Minal Hajratwala

Image: Unicorn, posted at Flickr by Peter Liu under a Creative Commons License.

If you believe in unicorns, most people probably think you’re fey. Minal Hajratwala’s poem believes you’re a scientist ahead of the terrestrial curve.

In “Operation Unicorn: Field Report”, the poem’s unnamed speaker is a collective, a group of statistic enquirers who have taken their study of unicorning to the wild. Where better to find a unicorn in her natural habitat? What I love about this poem is its dogged — horned, if you prefer – refusal to treat the unicorn as an abstract fantasy. No, the creature is a tactile being, and better yet, the science we’ve so far invented has light years to go to catch up with those silvery hooves. Thus the poem is a longing for what it cannot quantify, except in the data of longing, of mystery, of the arcane:

“They say from time to time a virgin

finds a gemstone tooth, a hoof of sapphire.
Upon inquiry, however, no such objects could be produced.”

Who better to love a unicorn than a scientist, than someone who might comprehend her innate majesty – someone who seeks to qualify the base components of which awe is formed? If you were so desirous, you could read Hajratwala’s poem as an ode to queerness. For how swift and fleet are we pursued, and how nimbly do we evade an ultimate understanding. It makes sense that explorers, going in search of that elusive, glimmering possibility, find themselves stranded in the act of conquest. Charitable cartography, after all, is still an act of precision-mapping, is still a desire to say, a brook-a stream-a mountain is exactly here, at this fixed point. Well, the unicorn dances away from you, intrepid expeditionary posse. The unicorn says, I am a force to be reckoned with, and honey, you haven’t even got names for the tools to try.

Read “Operation Unicorn: Field Report” here.
Minal Hajratwala’s debut collection of poems, Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment, was published in 2014 by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective.

This is the fourteenth installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.

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