- Vol. 08
- Chapter 08
Detached by our delicate differences
Sublime similarities saved us at the seams
Ruffles repeating, revealing
Our collective need for healing
Mending our mismatches
As the world around us collapses
Imperfect parallels protect us
From unreturned reflections
That are forever free from rejection
This awkward alliance
Into our transcendental triumph
For Alex, On Your Birthday
I want you to come home for the summer.
I want to feel
Even if for a moment
Like we haven’t changed
And everything will be okay
I think I’ll be able to breathe again
Like the stars we hung in the sky
Aren't just planes
And I can hold your head up
With my own
Like we aren't the worst
Of what raised us
Or didn’t care to understand
Anything about us
Apart from how tall we’ve grown
I miss you in a way
That feels like an end
I reminisce about taking a dip
In your dreams
And letting hope soak into our aching bones
Sighing clouds in the sky
That look like the better us
Read more >
Be still the fragile me
That sees mountains not gates
Be quiet and hold your tongue,
Hold the panic, take the weight
Be the holder of a breath
Dark thoughts locked away
Be the keeper of the secrets
neither spoken nor betrayed
Be still the fragile me
Your screams have no place here
Be mine drawn close
Embraced against your fear
Be protected, restrained
Let me bandage your soul
For only I hold the keys
Only I can make you whole
The Giraffe’s Daughter
Lovingly holding me in her arms, mommy turned the page and kept the story going: "And the giraffe was so sad because she wanted to yell but she was born with no voice. Everyone in the jungle knew that giraffes are born mute" and I followed a tear running down her cheek with my eyes and asked: "what's wrong mommy?" But I was too young to see the stitches on her lips...
And now, many years later, I can't put myself to sleep coz I can't trust my brain with my dreams. Coz I still remember the pain when they recycled my blood to make sure I don't inherit a thing but the muteness in my genes. Coz they kept telling me that I'm ugly and now thousands of edgy mirrors make my heart bleed. Don't shush me! Coz when I'm silent I can hear my mothers soul crying in the closet behind the clothes that she wasn't allowed to wear. I loved the rainbows in her eyes, and the pink blood in her veins, but noone else did. They soaked her in gas and asked her for a light and made me watch to make a lesson out of it. Then they asked god to forgive her and told me that the giraffe died of a sinful disease.
Moscow, last snow, shortly before
April. Armed with a pin cushion,
she drapes my pirozhki shoulders
and decides us: sisters in crime.
Drunken ballerina, I gladly fall for
she who can stitch me back up. She
talks Bolshoi, broken ankles, whether
the dark should devour the swan,
and how to mend tulle with invisibles.
Just because something has assumed
the shape of girls does not make it
any less dangerous than sobaki –
Mayakovski, but with a tape measure.
I am familiar with these delicate
instruments of torture: white chalk,
pattern paper. At the opera or with
a couturière, one is always: contorted,
or waiting. She calls me milaya –
that is, if I quit wearing black, embraced
the colour pink, her brand of abrasive
feminine. A woman needs an oligarkh,
she laughs like little pearl buttons,
then downs half the bottle – she pulls
me close, electrified and etherized,
Shadow-self flickers and floats
along the ground
thrives in sunshine fails without
long and lean or short and small
in a shadowy dance
climbs walls fords streams
leaps ahead or trails behind
but still clings fast
shadow-self cannot be lost
is always there dreamy misty
wished for imagined
or best-forgotten self
i am that eerie echo just under your skin
a reflex to an unnatural breeze
dim light stewing in a corner
ultra and infra jab-bering at your ear
a smudged notion of you
proof of otherness
i am the pale ghost of twilight
you are substance in the glare
in your dialogue between
reality and illusion
i'm as real as it gets
proof of duality
i confound your attempts
to cast off the not-you
suggesting sensations that distract
i provide our safety
you see only fears
proof of schism
my beat is your heart
your soul is my life
my breath is your vigour
your word is my thought
in commune we belong
proof of sameness
she tells me
I touch her
with my words
I love how
not even words
that is life
but a swift exhale of fridge-cool breath
ruffling my shoulder.
I sense your lean in,
the silent stroke of wrist, sleeve, hand
until I drift,
but mind still wide-eyed anxious. But then
your low hum
begins to mute
this world, lets me fill that shouty space
Kind words of
platinum and turquoise whisper, curve, dangle
from my ear.
My woven brows
hold spoken slivers of gold, pink agate, silver.
Now, I can create.
Are you stunned by our beauty?
Flawless noses, sweeping lashes,
chiseled lips, sculpted cheekbones,
elegant skulls, tapered fingers,
slicked hair, embellished brows—
a two-headed god facing past and future—
one head bowed for old humiliations,
the other rising in eternal hope,
four arms to hug ourselves twice over
and keep the hate at bay.
We close our eyes to blind prejudice,
but don’t think we don’t sense your bias.
Nestling into each other’s curves,
using gathered fabric as a shield,
we widen shoulders, brace ourselves,
let criticism slip-slide off unheeded.
Two senses merge seamlessly,
as glittering rhinestone eyes,
watchful, awake, with hooded lids,
dangle from ornamented earlobes.
They see and listen, guiding us,
gently entwined lovers
through a morass of loathing.
Even as we protect ourselves,
we struggle to comprehend
how our love is any less,
why it deserves your animus.
Assumption of Identical
We are contradictions sharing the same mirror,
neon and neutral blush swimming
a dream to be more than faces
assigned by eyes to be one reflection.
I wear my heart in pressed coral while you
keep yours in the secluded view of trusted.
We burn the candle at both ends, my wick reaching
the center in an ashy blink, while yours flirts with oxygen
in sputtering wisps of patience.
We are from a single stem blooming as different flowers,
the eyes folly identical always flows the same direction.
I never got to know you, but I have seen you many times before. In the half-reflection of windows, in the forms and colours lurking in a fogged-up mirror. I've always felt your presence, the pressure of your existence. Sometimes it feels like you are the ocean, and I'm down at the very bottom of you, and I can feel you pushing me on all sides, trying to crush me like a tin can.
There is only one place where I am safe from you. I walk out into the middle of the stage to soft applause, and I dance. Tonight we are performing La Bayadère. My body moves in the familiar, welcome route. Sissonne, and I leap. Arabesque, and I stretch. Emboité, and I expand myself whole. Underneath the spotlight, I feel everyone's gaze on me. I am seen, felt, present in these moments.
When the performance ends, and the spotlight is dark, and I'm in the ocean once more, I think of you, dear sister. I catch glimpses of your face in half-reflected things. Maybe one of these days I'll turn to look, and you'll no longer be there.
Until that day comes, I dance.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You absolutely do.”
“When am I even supposed to have said this?”
“In your sleep.”
“You know that doesn’t count.”
“That’s the only thing that counts.”
Our hands unclasp as we are forced apart by a few stranglers in the throng of people. My hand feels empty. I clutch my dwarf patio peach tree tighter under my arm and wonder where I’ll put her when we get home.
I feel their eyes on me. My skin always itches when they look at me like that.
We’ve stopped, apparently. This plant feels heavier when I’m standing still. I can feel it in the soles of my feet. Like they’re being flattened, collapsing in on themselves. The plastic pot cuts into my arm.
Turning to see why we’ve stopped. They’ve got their palm on a stranger’s shoulder.
“Sorry. I don’t want to be weird, I just love your style.“
“I thought you might like to know that you were being admired.”
“It’s always better to know…”Read more >
Just the two of us
You prop up your breasts in folded hands;
I am poised to wake you as your lids droop
in sleep. We stand together like a single heart,
our colours a mis-match of ruffled taffeta.
My name is a tattoo on your brown skin;
I am written near your shoulder, down
your side like a message on a rock face,
but you have fallen silent as forgotten love.
How will you rid yourself of my shadow;
I am armed with nails, with rings, yellow
brow of jealousy. My eye will be with you
always and yours will be with me, blinding.
we two are
the gender ear
( with sur
prised gaze )
the gender of
we two are
Read more >
One half of me is a blank page,
the other has been painted
over the years and hours —
slow strokes of time at the mercy
of dreams and lesser whims.
I hold the brush to the canvas,
(who am I kidding?)
this is not another's skin.
I want out, so I walk out
of the well-lit room and into the day,
where traffic merges with light
and senses swell in the heat.
In the distance, a siren;
in my back pocket, a pen.
From inside me a voice
rises like tide. On my palm
I write down a poem.
Behind of the rose wardrobe
the fake diamond rings
she gives the performance of the truly liked –
Over the mantle of shame
the frozen smile on numb cheeks
she wears the bright colors of the future –
eye – closed – eye – half opened – eye – closed
to the present.
The moment is pink clouds
of poisonous rain falling into the mouth –
of whom is dreaming
with lying head on invisible shoulders.
Fate watches with pearly eyes
and a grace
shucked fresh from the shell
dexterous, they begin
wrists wriggled like a spell
knives wielded skilfully
until second nature settles in
to unseabottom me
to pry my luster from the soft, safe tongue
to soothe me
over and over again
until I shine
A mardi gras of parakeets bicker gaily as I wander,
paper bags of grain, a pudgy toddler hand in mine,
aiming unsteadily for a creamy-cupped magnolia.
Within its glossy leaves, two peach-faced lovebirds
catch the aviary windowed light and I think of Fragonard,
‘The Swing’ a distant summer at the Louvre. How that
playful painting, galante, serpentine, as intimate as you
and me in our beginnings, held us fixed while half the world
passed by. Loose, florid, that ballet-pink dress billowing out
in boscage air, the paramour’s curved arm, and all the green
arboreal shimmer of that sultry sensuality is in this volary today.
How we both, lounging by the Seine, waxed drunkenly lyrical
on Fragonard’s frantic dog, the two complicit putti,and in spite of all the painting’s mirth and joy, how that cuckolded husband in crepuscular shadows watches the coming of the end of things.
Two exotic love-birds tilt and sway, eyes half closed, the bright mica of their beaks blinking in the tree. Toddler scatters seeds by handfuls, wings fly down in a candy-coloured carefree chittering. We swore we’d never part.
Anticiper La Danse
In this the last
and final room
in satin flounce
dressed to the nines
tillating so cap-
waiting in La Casa
for the lush
of La Diaboline
and only then
to make their
You cat-lick wick my
hydrangeas meadow sweet cerise
a thousand sensitive spines
pin prick slick lichen lanugo.
I am yours
whisper in the aftermath
of forbidden tenderness.
My sister is mine to keep
this Saturday and the next,
a Promethea moth visits us
under your breath, her wings
ablaze with stolen flame
from far away Cascadian sunsets.
When you stay the night
I hold you close with feline warmth
lick your lanugo covered body,
and your blooming flower.
The sun and the moon
She says we are doppelgangers
I tell her it’s a play of light.
She is in pink,
I am in off white.
She says I can borrow her clothes
But mine are snug and tight.
She is fleeting, unattached
I have grown roots,
tethered to the rest.
I am disillusioned, whereas
she has an alchemical vision.
I chew on the bitter crumbs
of news dipped in
my morning tea.
She sips hers with
toasted canvas of art,
I hide my scars,
they are ugly, I was told,
she flaunts hers,
she marks them in gold.
I think it all ends in pain.
She does not give a thought
to that kind of loss or gain.
We never saw eye to eye,
never touched in the time gone by.
We wonder if we could end that soon.
Yet in our hearts we know,
the sun never kissed the moon.
A cocoon sleep,
Disturbed by the ruffling of feathers.
I can see through the listening ear.
See through the display of colours.
The tactile cloth held between fingertips and transferred, bypassing the ear.
Transferred from my thoughts to yours.
You shall know the colour and texture,
Caught before it falls from rainbow shawls.
A knowing, a look, the transferring of thoughts, bypassing the ear.
A silent message, painted in your eyes.
A symbiotic childhood dream.
While sleeping draws identical waking, opposites draw near.
A cocoon sleep,
Disturbed by the ruffling of feathers.
Opposites draw near,
Delivering a silent message; the human condition may be fatal, if not caught
before it falls from rainbow shawls.
A silent message painted in your eyes,
Bypassing the ear.
A cocoon sleep disturbed by cloth, felt between fingertips.
A symbiotic childhood dream.
moving the ground with your feet
as you enter and exit
entwined on the threshold
of crossing between
the limits and extremities
the intersections of bodies
forward and back
ahead and behind
into the center of the sacred
by everywhere and nowhere
with intangible presence
in a coiled composite
of eternal transitioning
A dream you'd had your whole life
but that was better than your whole life when
it didn't come true.
I have never known devotion in the colors of the sun
--like I give in kelvins all my own--
I have never gotten to wear petals in my hair
or the subalar crown.
Yet it has always been only me that never once
barricade our shoulders
biggifying them like Chicago
so that when we walk down
this city’s streets, we move
through a space flowering
like petals of poppy.
We are light and shadow—
the image of ourselves
and our own negative.
We occupy the imaginations
of others, our eyes stitched
with gravity and clinging
to the source of sound.
What if we clam-shelled
closed, hid our pearls
inside us, held our beauties—
unparalleled yet riven—
for each other, for a future
engulfed in the warmth
of our dark embrace?
Oh Swan all I do now
is watch you from afar
as you inhale flies, run
uphill, and I know I should
have done more, much more
Oh Swan, so you could
blossom like a cloud on
a sunny day that offers
no more threat than a
longed for cuddle. Oh
Swan I should have stitched
myself into you more,
invisible but present,
which I suppose I am now,
a ruffled ghost Oh Swan,
to be a shadow is never as
much as being your lover
Oh Swan, your other, your
twin, your one.
it’s the kind of midnight drenched with mist; the lake’s
adrift as if woven of gossamer, the delicate
fingertips of venus herself reaching
from the fan faired teeth
coated eyelids peel like the ripest skin
aglow with the moon piercing wryly
pupils plucked from the sky like
luminescent grapes to be
devoured one by
it’s only when multiple destinies collide with limbs
cut from strings all the sudden diluting every
grayscale aswirl with shades of indigo;
a violet to set every upturned
we realise it’s only the brightest that can cast the
darkest of shadows in broad daylight, after all
the tears have turned to devotion, comes
a wet but dry, lukewarm kind of fever
chill, a coin mid toss, an ever
thinning veil between
realms and real-
On Watching Eurovision This Year
We love a spectacle. We want a show.
We gather for the camp, the eurotrash,
The drama of it all as countries pick
Or exclude their neighbours,
Blow their budget on mechanical novelty,
And stage in sincerity what
Europe will soon turn into a meme.
We come together every year,
Not united, often ignoring crises
And downplaying seriousness with glitter,
To sing across country and language borders.
Yet this year, this unprecedented year,
This year after the one that wasn't,
When rules had to be strict and
Contingencies laid on thick,
Any 'we' coming together felt newly fresh,
Finally allowed, even though it was through
Our screens just like the rest of the year.
Was just the sight of a live audience,
A ridiculous, overblown music show,
And performers crying with joy to be onstage
Just enough to forget that glass division,
That satellite delay, that beamed-in unreality?
Oh, that we felt just for one evening,
In a time of separation, that bit closer,
That bit more allowed to be messy and fabulous.
The Curtain Opens
Under the bright lights,
giant, glittering earrings.
by frayed thread, glitter, a promise,
and one simple snap.
The trappings of glamour
glisten in the bright lights,
shimmer in the standing ovation,
disappear when the curtain drops.
here, on the stage,
Eye to Eye
We are the spitting image of each other’s scars.
And we have drawn the signs onto our bodies’ walls
And we have borne the weight of having to define
And we have felt the goldrush for somebody’s soul
And we have tried to justify our mute concern
And we have met the smiles of better specimens
And we have worn the sad crown of unlucky starts
We are the spitting image of each other’s scars.
And we have held back love we could have proudly poured
And we have plunged into someone’s random abyss
And we have bared our skin too often to ourselves
And we have lip-synched mysteries, accepted rings
And we have shed in backrooms where we are not seen
And we have tricked our minds into cubistic parts
We are the spitting image of each other’s scars.
And we have paid for trust with our lovely chins
And we have driven our riches into sand
And we have stood at bus stops and in thumping rain
And we have looked in vain for our chiselled names
And we have lost ourselves in ornate question mazes
And we have been ashamed of our wits and arts
Read more >
The Eyes have arrived.
"But that isn't a name!"
Perhaps you're right.
Perhaps they would find it degrading if it was used to their faces. Still, that's what they're known as. What people call them behind their backs. Backstage. Their fan base. Other celebrities. Everyone.
It makes sense, really. They're always seen together, like a pair of eyes. Like eyes, they watch. Their eyes, deep blue in their olive faces, seem to observe and consider everyone and everything around them, even though they are blind. They still observe, their spirits drinking the atmosphere.
Still, this is not what gave them their nickname. It springs from something as simple as attire. No matter what extravagant garb they otherwise don, what royal boon they flaunt for the eager photographers, there's always the big earring in one lobe each. No one knows what they're meant to represent. Everyone agrees it looks like an eye. A pair of eyes, as their owners are as inseparable after their birth as they were before it. Readily posing together, heads close to each other, the big jewellery look like they're observing everyone watching their owners. They always carry the earring on the same side, too; Tamira's always on the left side, while Nadina's worn on the right. Journalists, interviewers, politicians; everyone relies on this definitive when directly addressing the duo.
They look radiant tonight, as always. Their dresses are identical in cut but different in colour; another of their trademark moves. Nadina wears a nude hue, while Tamira shows off a radiant warm pink. The Eyes give them away, rather than what colour they wear. Unlike other Fame-Twins, they don't appear to discern between each other by wearing their favourite colours in public. In fact, they do not appear to have a favourite colour.Read more >
I see my angel changing shape,
daydreaming this new season
and giving comfort as light as air -
always there without condition.
Turning with me and resting in cherry shadows,
their rooted veins make river sounds.
A pulse resonates in the fingers that
find mine, their pneumatic bones
strong, leading without moving -
I learn my next-ness
and abandon the need to know
the whole future as my hand lays
in soft, unfeathered space.
Aloof bivalve, two halves, one shell
Compelled to repel, like magnets
Aquiline planes and angles
Fanned and trembling, coral heart obeys
Pearl deer, sleeping in a glade
Frilled sea creature, deadly fronds trail
Pale self protects
Snake swallowing the world
Third eye sparkles open
We make monsters in shadow.
They rise in one movement from the bed. They are graceful, but still half asleep. They glide across the room towards the door, greeting themselves begrudgingly in the full-length mirror. This is not how they want to be seen. They sigh deeply and trot the short steps to the bathroom and hurry inside, locking the door. They shed their night clothes and reach their long fingers down into the sticky box at the end of the bath. They feel around for hollow plastic and pluck out the razor which is rusting at the sides. It’s been forgotten, so it’s safe. They drag it sharply up their skin and draw blood. It doesn’t hurt. They turn on the water and try again this time, more slowly, more carefully. They proceed in rhythmic sweeps until the skin is blank.
They squeeze a golden gloop of shampoo into their open palm and raise it to their crown. They massage it into their scalp until their head is heavy. It’s growing fast. With each finger flex they will it to grow and grow. to become a flaming streak of orange that captures the sun. One day they will be ready to step with their whole self into that light. Every cell of their being will radiate. Their bejewelled soul will dazzle inside a form that’s tailor made for them. And they will be happy. But for now, they must wait.
The room was silent. Dalmyra closed her eyes. Looking through a kaleidoscope, an image emerged; a symmetrical replication of herself. It was clearly her, but there was something in the shades of the image that diverged. There was addiction, but to healthy things. She had a fantastic job as a physicist that was all consuming. She was an athlete and could dance; the enjoyment felt familiar. She had travelled to far-flung places and could speak to strangers at parties. She once had dozens of interesting lovers. Her favourite friends: Adraxas, Tinsley, Phoenix, were an avant-garde set. She cared; helping all lost abandoned creatures that crossed her path: she had capacity and loved completely. Her high came from her own soaring mind. She was happily married and there were happy children in her home.
Dalmyra struggled to open her eyes to the room where assessments were about to be made, about her and her drug-dependent baby. How different that vision of herself was, yet in many ways also identical. She felt the weight of this pivotal moment. Those ‘what if’s’, illuminated moments in her life when the choice made could not be reversed, just like this one.
Fire of your Blood
Fire of your blood
I rise up around the moon
Add gold to your filigree eyes
Introduce a streak of blonde to your hair.
While the catbird
Teaches her young to fly
Grapes leaden on the vine
A copper tray turns fragile blue
Blonde turns to grey.
Fire of your blood
I nova around the sun
Braid buttercups for your ankles
Lavish your throne with belladonna silk.
While the grapes leaden on the vine
Olive oil woos the inside of
Its earthen vessel stored
In a cool cellar
Mellows bread with a paste of
Garlic, salt, and basil.
Fire of your blood
I thunder across the dusking sky
Give each star a wicked coating
Turn the zodiac to align above your head
A regal crown.
While the olive oil deepens
My patchouli and your jasmine do a little dance
Your skin provides their nuptial bed
Your breath a gentle quilt.
The Burden of Fakeness
Subduing my femininity and vulnerability
Grinding my teeth and tightening my jaw
Stretching my lips in a fine 180° line
I feel the burden of my fakeness
My spirit is down, bent like my head
Hunched inwardly, held down by the hearsays
Slumping through the rest of my body
I feel the burden of my fakeness
Seeping through my outerwear
Constantly blending with the bland colors of society
Trampled on by the magnificent bling hung on my ears
I feel the burden of my fakeness
I fall to my knees
Carrying the expectations of a generation
Following the traditions of a generation
The propaganda of a deeply entrenched patriarchy
Long obsolete and extinct
Incoherent and implausible for today's successors
You deserve respect
You need respect
A voice whispers in my ears
Open your eyes and let the tears fall
Share the love you have for yourself
In the trembling of your chin, and the rose in your cheeks
In your mucus-filled nose and your choking voice
I love you unconditionally
when you look in the mirror
and like what you see
or don’t like what you see
when your latest experiment
has gone a little too far
when your eyebrows are too bushy
or too thin or too straggly
or off the scale in their pinkness
or yellowness and other people
stare at you and you don’t want that
or you do want it but can’t handle
the attention because your BPD
is tugging your moods from extreme low
to extreme high and back again
with ever-increasing rapidity
or your NPD is damaging you
and everyone around you
and you’re only now starting to suspect
there might be a trail of victims in your wake
because your eyes have been closed
to everything but your own inner turmoil
or you’re just being your INFJ self
or have been over-busy being creative
or worse a poet
dragged through the rejection mill
once too often so you are blind
to your successes or dismissive
of everything you have achieved
and mostly because you haven’t seen
how incredibly beautiful you are
Putting off the onion
skins/ taking off the rings
tinsel/ putting off the look
On hold/ the gold
& silver shadow/ mirror
-ring/ the silver rings of onion
blink/ & you miss it
rings/ the rag-trade/ rage
the tear of gold & silver
thread/ the chop & change
the models/ at the heart of fashion
There is a moment of silence
before the dance.
Lights rise, and we hold ourselves
waiting for the music to start,
for ourselves to begin.
Breath sits just out of reach, our bodies
resting with the weight of space. On
that first note we will explode into limbs
and colour and pattern, muscles trained
into shape making we could never describe
with anything other than our bodies.
Shapes that call and answer, ask and
reply. But in this not-quite-yet
I lean against you
and am known.
The bar staff swept away the night,
The glass glittering around our feet,
Souls tacked to the floor
Which rocked us and the years away
Beneath fractured spectrums
Cast from mirrored balls
Bedizening our heavens.
Slops in glasses glowering amber
Warning us it was time to go
But we'd spill the night onto the street
Because we would only ever see each other.
And even our shadows would shimmer
Smattering sighs of silver
As we lost them all
Smacking streets with our bare feet
Chasing a future that doused our rainbows
and blackened our dreams.
nose to nose
tricks of the mind
illusions of the eye
held in style
embraced in beauty
beauty of the femininity
and of the masculinity
of the pink
of the beige
a pair of earrings
a model relationship
A Patch Of Grass
I feel big holding a mountain:
my arms melting snow,
making tea for skiers,
asking the goats to back off for a bit.
A reversing of roles
breathes life into bones
like a splash of vinegar on chips,
a ready salted crisp sitting on chocolate mousse.
I don’t always know where to put my hands
but they feel safe here,
learning a language
as a version of me
you grew from a patch of grass
near a city farm.
The Cartography of Gaslighting
The process is slow, geological:
the gradual erosion of a path across a hillside,
the battering sea undercutting the cliff face.
The perpetrator is both boot and wave.
Relentless, his attrition corrodes
colour and contour until years later
I’m all that's left, a cowl of shadows.
They call it gaslighting, this wearing down
of confidence and self esteem.
When I step back from the mirror,
when I see the landscape of my younger self
revealed – the bright afternoon sun already
slipping across her hills and valleys –
I want to tear her away, cradle her, soothe her.
I want to remind her she has other options,
alternative routes to navigate.
But I know she will twist away from me,
turn her face towards the prevailing wind.
She is beguiled by his faint praise,
grounded by censure, hungry for approval.
She is unable to recognise me as her future,
to read the lines on my map as a warning.
WE AND THEY
We wear our beady eyes on our ears
to better see the peripheries.
We highlight brows above
where they used to roll about
in search of what lay In Front,
colourful caterpillars orbiting
cavities now closed.
What lies In Front is not pretty,
like ruffled petals bursting from buds.
In Front is a vast field razed
with flames of judgement and anger.
They hate confusing beauty
created by strong hands.
They let us pass, unbeaten,
if camouflage collage passes glimpse test
from the corner of their eyes.
Like Two Owls
Congrats, sis, and tillykke to Us.
We were that one fertilised egg
that split into a thousand run-on
melodies. Scattered, and sea foam
soft. We became Us, you and me.
We became a little night music.
Fluid. Transient and oblivious.
Waking and sleeping. Us. Always.
Always sunshine in those trails
pulling at us. We are magnetic.
Congrats, sis, on living longer
than two owls. Or a cat. A trout.
We survived ruffles, stitches,
all those weighty decorations.
We’re twins. Omens. Like owls.
Let’s count eyelashes. Do we
still have the same number?
Do we still count fleecy sheep,
same number – and then sleep?
Are we still Us, you and me?
If we were owls, would we
still know each star – would we
still smile while we dream?
Congrats, sis, our melodies
exist, still running ledger lines,
and we’re just like two owls.
Hold me close and put me aside
my fears, my spirit all confined.
The yellows and pinks
The fluffed up wings
Tracing tracks upon my sore shelled skin
Picking and plucking all remnant strings.
Affix my hair and mask my fringe
Paste the plaits and trim me proper
My choices you say? Oh, don’t bother.
Hold me close and hold me tight
Clean me up to a gratifying sight.
Hold me, hush me polish my light.
Eyes closed, heads averted
we cling to each other.
mend the ruffles of our empty pram.
Like conjoined twins, not lovers,
we cling to each other.
It is not the time to speak.
It is not the time to see.
It is time to let the pain weld us together.
If we let go, we will spiral away.
If we speak, we will stab each other.
Instead I hold my hands
over our baby's first home.
You touch my hand, your body against my back.
We let the silence
breathe hope into the space
where tiny fingers once clutched ours.
We listen for colicky breathing, but there is only my
raspy breath and your steady heartbeat.
Twinning in absentia
Pink or beige?
I see you behind,
through light of my mirror,
Holding onto me through life’s strings,
Sharing appearance and possessions alike,
Glittery eyebrows, shiny earrings, shared interests,
Differences, similarities everything alike,
Between that day and today,
And yet all that I see now,
I see a pale reflection of you behind,
Through light of my mirror,
Far away living through a mere memory,
Twinning in absentia.
Sequestered lives on the brink
of birth, pushed out, tangled bodies
tumbling after the other, down
the ruddy birth canal-- two scrawny chicks,
gray flesh and pointy bones, featherless—
unaware of the meaning of flight
There were two heads, two minds
such that they remained strangers
but who could do nothing else
but cling to one another.
All the while knowing in some
infantile intelligence, pulled away,
drawn to distant horizons, fated to oppose
the other’s progress in any direction.
A knot that binds all futures.
They appeared to be the inverse
of the other, one with insides turned out,
the other with outsides turned in,
The same or similar but giving off
a different light, a blinding hypnotic
multi-colored aura that signaled to
any and all and with that the path
opened up like a sunrise, one heading
east, the other striding westward.
Not my family tree
When the mother tree died Beech chose me.
Me, a sullen sapling, she force fed with sugar solution.
She, self-appointed forest queen, content in her cathedral
of branches, always well dressed in her seasonal attire.
She began to bore me with her constant root-chatting
her fungal fingers soon got beneath my bark
screaming at my fragile roots should I take an extra drink
or engage in leaf dropping.
I must escape this bullying dominance, I long for the freedom
of the wind-blown Willow.
I need to own my own pain.
My Big Fat Indian Wedding
Begin dance rehearsals
a month before the wedding.
The gold-plated invitations look exquisite.
His friends will be my friends.
Dangle the hand-embroidered lehnga skirt.
I will resign from work after marriage.
Showcase the jewellery from the
latest Bollywood movie—
the one that Queen Deepika wore.
His home is my home.
The Exotic Udaipur Hotel is
available for my wedding dates.
Graciously honour the life my
mother-in-law picks for me.
Intricate henna applied on my hands.
His name shines in dark red.
Thank God, my husband will love me.
I am a success story.
The Fossil Path
Under sheer cliffs, picking our way, we looked for the shape of them, the curve of the whorls. I had advised different clothing, something anonymising. Surely, I said, we did not want to be seen. She disagreed, reminded me that pink suited me. I could not argue. I could never argue with Nemesia.
We looked every day for six days, and on the seventh we rested. I could still hear the sound of the sea, out of sight but beating, beating on the shore; I could not settle, roamed the fenced garden like a caged animal. Nemesia said nothing until I forced her, made her look into my eyes, see as I was seeing. And then she said only that I should be patient, that the rocks had been there for thousands of years, why should I expect that everything would be revealed to me, to us both, in a single week?
I cast down my eyes and steeled myself. And then: on the morning of the first day of the second week we found an ammonite, perfectly preserved, facing out from the cliff at eye level. We saw it at the same moment, had no dispute, only rejoicing. And we thought – oh, vanity! – that where there was one we would find another.
But we found nothing more.
And then we lost what we had found. How? I cannot say, only that I put it down for a moment. There was no-one else there, but when I turned every rock was as another, all plain, smooth, unremarkable. I cannot blame Nemesia; she had trusted me on that morning and I let her down. I walked the path for the rest of the day, for the rest of the week, for the rest of the month. My dress became torn and dulled. It was, as Nemesia said, a waste and a shame. As little and as much as that. And though, afterwards, we found other traces of the creatures of our past, nothing was ever as perfect, and nothing satisfied us.
The results were in. They didn’t have Lyme disease! They gave each other high fives without pants on. Take off those socks. Toss me my shoes. Will you? Give me a hug. Put your body in my mouth. Is there somewhere I can spit this out? It tastes too much like me. Remember that trip we took? The cat meowed all the way to New Mexico. The back seat stunk of fur. One license plate read STOP. One license plate read DONT. One license plate wasn’t from anywhere. We choked ponies with vibrant lassos. We were ready. Someone shaved us clean. We would work from home. We would work for roadside burritos. We would work for chewing tobacco. As long as it wasn’t papaya flavored. Fifteen dollars an hour. Cash.
Let’s dress each other up in confetti. Let’s celebrate our mutual boredom through cheese. Let’s bury our desires in the backyard under long ago dead pets.
Sundays walloped. They coated their limbs in laundry detergent. Filled their phones with images of couples embracing. Friends of friends. Enemies too. They tugged sheets over a squeaking mattress. They wouldn’t finish each other’s sentences. They barely knew each other’s names. One liked blue. One liked magenta. One fought mosquitos. One let them bite.
They met at a bus stop. Both of them were scrolling through their phones. Liking sensational quotes. Unliking tennis rapists. They collapsed. Help, they said. We’re afraid we’ve done nothing so far.
I love you, they said because the house was on fire. The doors and windows were locked. There were no Q-Tips. The refrigerator needed to be cleaned. Sludge lapped toilet bowls. Floors slipped in cooking oil. I love you, they said because their bank account was full. Every other Friday. Fifteen dollars an hour. Cash.Read more >
The bail goes deeper yet I don’t hear the splash. It slithers up. No splash either. She’s dry though no one can tell. One well within another. Artificial and natural. Both try to satisfy thirst. Green and lush circling them both. Upside and downside. In both I can walk naked feet, or just naked. Hopping from stones to stones the frogs whistle, or grass blades to grass blades whisper. No one’s watching except the sky seeming to be a helping hand. No dismal, obscure clouds scrutinize in antipathy. The flat outside is better to lay on and enjoy a blissful afternoon sun in winters. The curved interiors are risky yet tempting. Both are quite lonesome though not lonely. Abundant yet being denied. Welcoming like an afternoon coquettishly lingering for a hug from winsome evening. The needy hang around, restlessly, fingers tapping. Let’s forget the wells and lush surroundings for a moment. Focus on being menopausal early. Quite enjoying this kind of bloody freedom. It’s my world, I’m letting you in. So, drink away till I say no, and don’t touch anything you aren’t meant for. Not even the sculpted make up. Water is rare these days. Nod and leave on time. Don’t forget to promise to return one day. It might be your final lie. I’ll fend ignorance and faith. The bail, water and thirst may be more amenable then.
Look Down, Look Away
Look down, look my way,
at the colours worn,
shades of words
I cannot speak,
seeking the hand
from those who
look down, look away
Look down, look at me,
no more layers
hide the heart,
no more choked pretence,
only the cloak
I’m stripped bare
and still you
look down, look away
Entwined as vines,
candy-floss lovers embrace
linking lips, hearts, woolly sweaters.
Theirs is heady,
pungent as mead
on a floral summer’s day.
as yin and yang:
a perfected symbiosis.
Full lips pout,
reach for never-ending kisses
laced with bubblegum tangs.
An elevated love –
two fierce lionesses
protect each other:
as steely handshakes.
Prideful colours paint,
bedeck blank canvas,
creating life, heat, vibrancy;
passion flows in multi-hues –
a fluid colour palette
daubs of futuristic truth.
Take A Moment
Eyes, be it shut or staring into the abyss, envision stories of the past, present and future. The dull moments and the moments of fun and vibrant colours that sprinkle into our ever-flourishing stories.
We see the lives of those around us as different stories that we may only glimpse for a second as our lives are valued to be the highest. Others, being the main character of their own stories as we may only enter their view for a brief second. Every look, smell, touch, taste, be it for years or a fleeting moment, change our path and the garden growing in our mind and heart.
Presence is ever so rare in our busy lives, but it is those who take a second to breathe that see life as it is truly meant to be, fun and vibrant against the dark and gloomy.
We bleed hot and cold
Auras are red and yellow
Tongues speak Hebrew and Arabic
Yet your fingers curl like mine
And our eyelids flutter when the wind sails in from the horizon
Leaving knots in our stomachs and painted lines on our foreheads that tell the tales of our mothers and fathers.
Long lost, I dreamt. We intertwined
By touch – our sightless souls embraced.
Our twinned jewelled fingers interlaced.
I dreamt of that I could not find.
I made myself your glittering shadow
In ecstasies that intimated
How one day we'd be reunited;
Yet dawn made this, my thought, time's widow.
So next I made a vow: to hope;
To seek our bright reunion out.
Both now may search, and brook no date
To set upon despair – to give up
Sweet dreams. So now, within my soul,
Hope lights the day for our shared mind;
Fear blots the night, for all's unfound.
Long lost, I yearn. My heart stays full.
Remember when we started?
We were so close
Fighting as one
People flocked to our banner
We were unbeatable, unconquerable, invincible
More people came
We were so popular
We became the People’s Popular Front
Then came the whispers, the gossip, the innuendo
Rumour, fabrication, falsehood
Driving a wedge between us
Motes became beams
Molehills became mountains
The wedge widened, we became
Separated, detached, disconnected
I remained the People’s Popular Front
You became the Popular People’s Front
Narcissism they called it
The narcissism of small differences
United we were so strong
Divided, we became weak
Weak, irresolute and defeated
So, my sister, let us connect once more
Combine our strengths
Turn mountains back to molehills
Beams back to motes
Let us become once more
Unbeatable, unconquerable, invincible
The Chorus Line
Wouldn’t it be divine,
Perhaps even sublime,
If everyone held hands,
Learnt to dance in time,
Becoming part of a world corps de ballet,
Sixteen pas de chat,
Dancing like cygnets,
A human chain working together,
Stretching, pulling up, supporting each other,
No character dancers, male, or female,
No prima ballerinas,
Achieving perfect balance,
By giving reverence and respect to one another.
Tanya Layko, Fashion Platter
It’s Таня Лайко, double dose,
Cyrillic transposed, Latin first -
an answer known means followed close -
some time I’ll study, alpha bits;
Tanya oral, Hasidic Law,
lore Layko=best, though how pronounce?
But first - this is no centre spread -
not staple gun range, newsprint hinge;
but is it one, or twinset ’graph?
It’s highbrow fashion, ear ring kit;
cut this pattern, three quarter length,
one eye each lobe, how many tears?
This ringing hand - not wringing here -
hold resting, digits to the fore.
The facial shades, grade captured shapes,
serene smooth flesh for zygomat,
sterno muscles, sculpted necks.
Mortise and tenon carpentry,
bold tendon joint to turn or nod,
both clavicle, end temple play,
puffs gathered, squiggle rivulets,
the interplay, mesh flesh with bone.
The salmon, not the sleeveless shade -
that palette ‘sable’, nearly ‘beach’ -
a menu starter, fruits de mare?
Our Secret Language of Stars
We listened with our eyes.
If you were asleep,
in bright fuchsia dreams,
I would stand watch,
guard your vulnerability,
fend off those who mistook
your empathy for weakness.
My awakened brain would be nothing
We ride a tandem bike every day,
take turns navigating
the map of emotion,
the dry, bumpy terrain,
the way life sometimes defies translation.
dear bruised, blood pumping,
memory keeper heart,
you reside in my chest
and in shadow,
Where you go, I will follow.
We are inextricably connected.
I love the eyes upon us,
unable to spot the difference,
our titles interchangeable.
Two branches, same tree,
entwined through all seasons,
only our leaves exposed,
the rest invisible, untouchable,
a quantum understanding
straddling all space.
I’m not sure if I am only holding you,
or if I’m really supporting myself.
Either way, keep holding.
Our synchronicity and joined bodies
preclude eye contact. My arms, your arms,
identical, enfolded, follow our undulations,
our contours. Our shared ear-jewels suffice
as adornments. Our threaded eyebrows arch
our lives, signal stirred independence. Why
would we ever deny our knowledge of each other,
or our need for singular regard. Sister, I love you
most when you turn away from me. Then, I sense
your independence urges me to freedom, within
soft constraints offered by your sustained embrace.
Maybe we will press our lips on strangers' mouths,
whilst clutching each other's entwined fingertips.
DOPPELGÄNGER, APPARENTLYIt started with a simple question, innocent enough: Why am I me, why am I not you? Soon it grew into a sapling, and then turned into a cherry tree. I picked the first fruit from its crown, and found I’d picked you. But there’s nothing in the background, and I can’t see my own face (directly), let alone the back of my head ― whereas you have a stereoscopic grasp of me: you see my true colours, you smell my entrails. There was a time when I avoided you like the plague. But, as always, your patience is golden, your caress sisterly and chaste. Now I try looking into your eyes, hoping to find a decent image. How I wish I could invent a secret language that we share, something to tie us to one meaningful place. There’s a promise taking root in the far distance, but I know it’ll be out of tune and become a passion play. The cherry blossom season is short-lived: the garden is quickly saturated with pink on the ground, and I daren’t tread on the masses of fallen petals even though I know you’d be leading the way. The other day I whispered into the mirror, and suddenly realised, to my dismay, I couldn’t remember my mother’s voice, not even a muffled trace. Out of the depths of ordinary fabrics and juxtapositions you smiled at me, and a frisson rose slowly from our in-between space. Turning round to catch a glimpse of your enigmatic face I felt reassured, for the first time, that you’ll always be my companion, even though you’ll never be mine.
When Calling Your Name is Like a Sin
With darkness pooled in the folds of our pliant skin
you can measure the tenacity of my words
in the degree of the melanin, my skin holds
Here in this world, at this moment, in this day
where the veracity of wounds can only be measured
by the color of our skin--
where the degree of the accuracy in cries and wails
are measured by the fairness of your skin
Here in this moment--
I open my arms to hold you close
closer than darkness deep-seated in the pores of my being
Between the undulating proximity and the prosody of pain
syncopating with the warmth of your heaving bosom
As I pull you close
my mirror image, my doppelganger
the reflection of my thoughts:
that bears the color as thick as the wound in my heart
when calling your name
sits like a welt on the tip of my tongue
When calling your name aloud
in the middle of the ashen nights
curls like a sin inside my mouth
as I hold you precious like a sacred hymn
like a muezzin call to prayer in the middle of the noon
She guides my hand as I apply
that smoky smudge around the eye
and huffs contempt at my attempt
to style my hair just like she meant –
I let her lift my locks and fluff,
curls ends that were not curled enough.
She picks a pink to suit the cheeks
that shine where highlighter now sweeps
I slip into the dress she chose
and step in heels that squash my toes
She zips me up from tail to neck
steps close and I can feel her breath
and I can't keep my pulse beneath
the steady rhythm it should keep
it bucks against my chest until
I notice that she now has stilled
lifts up a hand to tuck a strand
of hair behind my ear – and
as if she could have heard my wish
upon my neck she plants a kiss.
which countenance of darkness do you
see when you close your eyes? can you hear
it the way I do? eyes buried in the compost
of ears, in the tranquil regurgitations of all
that is capable of loss. these nails have a
tendency to scrape thick dregs of paint behind
our mirrors. but it’s still safe to procreate this
illusion: there is no parasite in-between, no
wraith haunting the innards of our silent prayer.
I spend long nights dressed as a tea cozy for
your shoulders; pink-hued, and nearly unseen.
there are moments when we dissect our saturnine
hearts, hold them in the crevices of our palms;
the way two scientists discover relics through
a microscope of doubt and announce it ungodly.
Beauty comes in every form, all colours,
the way you hold yourself tells me this.
Though you look away, eyes closed,
synchronicity is the key to our being.
The way you hold yourself tells me this,
each pink crease kissing the air into life
and I am the foil to your incandescence.
Though we look away, eyes closed,
tender touches on arms, breast
show the world we are simpatico.
Synchronicity is the key to our being,
earrings, golden brows, sculpted faces,
mere adornments to our humanity.
Before we embraced,
our feet had to stamp
those biased laws and codes
Before we embraced,
a string of abuses were
knit on our earlobes
Before we embrace,
how about a primer
on biology and pronouns?
Now that we embrace,
body and soul, let's dust
away the hatred from our
feet, from our ears, from
our frames. Frames
that shall and will fuse
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To My Living Mirror
I apply narcissus pollen while he
brushes my brows with peach blossom.
Sharing our sequinned lives we two
ear to ear not naked this fine morning
but ruched in buff apricot avoid
the stares of those around us
by glancing down and away.
In this prolonged embrace we are
the epitome of spring but can switch
our shared persona
– we two chameleons.
Adapting to any situation – we can
show you winter's icy blues
bring on autumn reds and oranges
or summer's fahrenheit sharing
not only this skill but also our precious seed
we have indeed enriched the Earth.
Inclined towards reflection, I am not disappointed,
By my youthful, abundant inner flow.
Close to thirty,
Two of me….
Both creations of nature and of the soul,
Hunt the mirror.
One is the expression of my organic romantic disposition,
Dreaming of budding love,
A prisoner of experiences and feelings,
Which cannot quiet the song of the heart.
The other is reading into the depths of souls,
And is protective
Against betrayal and premonitions of future tragedies.
We’re always together,
Two of me,
In a melodramatic posturing,
Unseen by anyone.
Welcome Back Home My Sweet Otherness
I look for you inside all the empty faces I see in the mirror.
Razor sharp hair blooms out of your head, shards of glass,
Cracked lips, bleed between coffee stained teeth,
Face mapped by scars, trails in the explorers’ skylight,
Hardly a wrinkle gives away your age.
Stones lie over each other on the tip of your tongue, so you won’t choke,
Ulcers burning with icy words, open wounds, volcanos in an Icelandic landscape,
Dark brown eyes, melancholic mountains cut by rivers of radioactive tears.
Your ears hold the echoes of long lost broken promises,
Your hands, shell shaped, are painfully crooked into a defiant fist,
Your voice, makes sore noises, loud and strong, a young magpie on top of a maple tree,
Your breasts full and soft, filled by the knowledge of the Milky Way, embrace your offspring.
Welcome back home my sweet otherness,
I guess you never left. You were always there.
I just didn’t know where to find you!
About Being Together
Sunlight, beaches, and sea waves,
Darling, you remind me of all of them.
The porous foam, and the sweet-scented breeze,
The moon and the silver beam,
An exquisite symphony of being together heroines of each others' lives.
Mulberry leaves and soothing tunes of hum,
An olive bird in a nest with her starlings.
The love between us as pure as their dulcet chirps.
The sky opens its magnanimous wings to us
As we hold our hands,
And nature florets in its best form
As we step together and osculate.
-walks in slow motions, stops, enjoys the petrichor...
A bud matures and
Flowers turn into a beautiful blossom.
Vast Meadows welcome us to their heaven.
And we are the zephyr in collision
setting our coral hearts together
in this world of hazy errand.
I think it must have been in a dream
of such bright coloured textured light,
when movements sparked
like starshine in the sun,
and feet flew swifter than a swallow’s flight,
that I saw you first,
a splash of silken water,
a fountain gemstoned
with the rustle of this year’s leaves,
your features delicate
as the sharp-etched petals
of water lilies, moon-pale.
Your ears were hung with brilliants,
drops of dew, and your hands reached out,
the supple-fingered kind
that butterfly-touch like milky baby's breath,
strong and loyal as dog paws,
the kind that never ever let go.
I saw you first in a powder-painted dream
and when I wake I sometimes think I hear
your laughter fading with the morning star.
I gather white flowers
She holds my heart
crawling the Medusa legs
us pale girls
virulence being told
is our blood and bones.
A dead body cannot turn
a heart; but your words
If I let them
trace onto my maddening hands
like a bush
like a black cancer
from the yew tree.
Us pale girls
know love in each other.
If the sun is a whore
into the death
let her be; I am smoke and dead,
I am at once who I am
my love is my snow child
only to grow
I am not what you thought
shame for you, not for me.
I am the doom through your blood,
But I’m free.