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In Praise of my Amygdala by Nikita Azad

Some neuroscientific studies have found that amygdala – a part of the human brain

responsible for fear and the sense of self – lights up, that is, shines in fMRI scans when

people talk about their religious beliefs.

Dear amygdala,

Light up When –

after a windless day’s grind your husband’s hair look like

frozen stalks in the makeshift winter-lake.

When you re-tie your shoelaces under a silver birch

in November & it runs you a golden bath.

When your mum’s sister, your Masi, calls to say,

“I just operated on a woman & she has a lovely baby girl

& the first person who held her was her Masi

& oh it reminded me of the first time I held you.”

Light up When –

you see two magpies you’ve been listening to for the past three months

build a nest in the apple tree outside your window.

When the sky wears violet & yellow & pink ribbons,

the kind your sister wore in her hair every school day.

When a brown duck eats seeds & bread from your

husband’s long hands & twerks shamelessly on the tarmac.

When you frantically try to make out the birdsong from the hedgerows

when you think you’ve most certainly Never heard it before & it’s a baby robin.

When you see, not one, but two hawks endlessly circling the willows

& know what’s to come.

Light up When –

a seagull in St. Ives lands on your husband’s left shoulder,

snatches his cauliflower Cornish pasty & flies away –

all in less than a second.

When your friend who believes he’s an OK dancer

waves his arms on Bhangra beat like the ocean’s lip on low tide.

When the sun makes your head hurt & for a week,

she leaves like a disappointed but doting mother who knows.

When the neighbour’s cat your husband has named philosopher

allows you to belly rub him at midnight.

When at 3am in Schoenberg, Berlin, you see a woman

through the windows of a sparingly lit restaurant wearing

a silver-sequined mini dress, silver pencil heels, star-shaped earrings.

Dear amygdala,

Light up When –

After twenty-six years of trying and failing your father

says the thirty nights you are home in a year,

Megha! Please brush your teeth before sleeping!

Light up When the bluebells remind you of jasmine reminds of your old home

its watery afternoon light flooded veranda.

Light up When

the freezing water of the Atlantic washes your feet,

& with each departing wave you sink in a little deeper

into the sand into the earth.

Dear amygdala,

Light up When you become the earth.


Nikita Azad is a writer and researcher, who writes about the natural world, gender, selfhood, and human-nonhuman relationships. They are a PhD researcher in the history of science at Oxford University and a Nan Shepherd Prize longlisted author. Their work has been published in The Willowherb Review, Quince Magazine, History Workshop Journal, and more.


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