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.