thick and coarse like the strings on green bananas
that your parents would buy, that never ripened,
just went straight to mud-brown. Couldn’t even put
them into bread. Certain doctors told you that parts
of the brain could hold memories that weren’t real,
just glimmers of your last imaginary cityscape.
But I know this windowpane, you wanted to say,
the children’s blood pressure cuff grasping the top
of your arm, spindly and hollow as the bones of a bird.
I’ve seen those opera houses before. You woke up
and felt the loss of the scarf pulled tight around
your neck. In your mouth, the lingering taste
of warm water with lemon and cinnamon.
after the storm that laid the spring to rest / we go in the river turned mugshot gray / like the
cracked skin of the sky / or the coins in a collection box / we push our oars through sandalwood
paste / amidst garlands of dead minnows / either deep below the surface or very very close / I
can’t tell / I’m afraid to touch for fear they will disintegrate / into things I can’t pronounce / for
fear my hands will finish them off for good / now and then I used to dream that I was trapped in
a blue spruce / the kind my mother said was a habitat for hornets / and I could not see them but I
could hear their cadenza / so soft and persistent and aware / I could not move my shoulders / I
could not tell what was touching / and what was unraveling / now and then I used to say delusion
when I really meant arrogance / the delusion is that healing reaches / across the blurred edge of
the soul / across altars only characterized by the offerings we remove / where illness and talking
about illness are siblings anyway / someone tell me I’m making bad decisions again / I’m not
overthinking when I should be / ask me where is it / where is the thing that blooms
The crows tell me that my gods are dead, say
that it’s been years since my grace was worth
its salt. In a dawn clotted with moths orbiting
streetlamps in their sickly glow, there I almost
find salvation. You never get used to it, I heard,
you just learn not to say anything.
Most of the time I spent repenting, a moth
alighting on the rib of the sky—but who am I
without my fraud? The protections I swat
like heat-drunk gnats? When my firstborn god
swung his axe I knew what it meant: I only invent
what I can leave behind.
A curious thing, to be decanted. To watch
the earth chase its tail with hunger, wander damp
through reams of sand. When it’s all too much
I give my shadow back to the moths, the dawn,
the crows and their trawling eyes. Your turn
to carry this now. When it’s all too much I watch
my lovelost god boil herself to sleep.
Leela Srinivasan is an Indian-American poet and MFA student at UT Austin’s Michener Center for Writers. She holds a BA in Psychology and MA in Communication from Stanford University, where she wrote and published a collection of psychological poetry as her undergraduate honors thesis. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.