Issue 2 / Poetry

Poetry by Shakthi Shrima

alka hits the pavement

It is easy to run too fast. The asphalt snaps,

pockmarked and flush against you,

grabs at your skin like it’s a skirt, gropes.

Above you, alka, the sky is bright as a vowel—the same sound

your sister tilts down her throat like an aftertaste when

she says your name, sun lacing the swift spirals of her fingers

like cowberries. She turns her wrinkled sheets into tourniquets,

thumbs the wet grass still clinging to your leg

like a lost child. Yesterday,

she taught you how to wriggle your hips until

the boys curdled like sour milk, told you tangency was just another

way of touching yourself. You watched her, the sound of her

voice curling in your throat, sagging like skin. You dreamt of fingers

erupting in you, alka. Everywhere,

little scabs closed their eyes, wore their wanting.



 alka finds a hair


between her legs and suddenly

the inside of her body tastes like moonshine. She throws up.

Outside, we talk about May with its small mouth and wide

hands, rinsing ours until we cannot feel our fists. alka wants to

wipe her mouth. She considers her hips concavely,

as spoons, considers her thighs as a city—Pittsburgh,

slumping. You remember Pittsburgh first

as a breaking vessel, half full, and

you sat at its cusp, kissed a girl whose thighs rose like nine p.m.,

tasted like moonshine. You cannot remember her name.

alka is thinking of the padded bra you showed her yesterday

in a slack-lipped window on Sixth Avenue, of her eyes

cast between the cups, of eyes. Suddenly the entire town

was eyes. alka finds

another hair. We don’t talk about this. Something

begins to disrobe in her throat, doesn’t stop.

alka fantasizes about tarmac


alka fantasizes about tarmac, thinks of a silence

thinner than her linens. There is not a second

she doesn’t spend in her body. She teethes

on Twizzlers and half-empty interstates, swallows entire nights

like placebo pills. The only thing she will confess to killing

is possibility. Do you pretend this turns you on, alka?

Your hands are knife-ready, feral—

just look at all those maps with their open mouths. You circle

the towns with small populations in Sharpie, name your cunt

after a dead actress, reach into your body and wait

for the quietest violence, alka, you climb

into your rearview mirror to forget. Once,

you stood in the middle of a neon crosswalk,

said you were someone

who had never thought of you before, watched us squint

through the grammar of our windshields,

didn’t move an inch.


Shakthi Shrima enjoys math and bad reality television and tries not to enjoy coffee. Her work has appeared in Cadaverine and the Louisville Review, amongst others. She was recently named a 2015 YoungArts Finalist in Poetry and serves as Poetry Editor for the Winter Tangerine Review. She currently lives in Austin, but will soon relocate to the East Coast to pursue an undergraduate degree and meditate on the novelty of snow. Selected by Maisha Z. Johnson.

Image © Bishop via Creative Commons