scenario one : you didn’t submerge your head in the river

 

 
 
 
first, thread your eyes with lace & shells, paint

your nipples with drying mud, watch the cells flake

off your gold-wracked body

 

*

 

it’s true you used to look at skin

darker than yours & see your posture straighten

 

it’s true you’re ashamed of your bird cage, your glass

year, your short shorts & tan lines

 

*

 

what if you were a gold bangle placed on a darker woman’s

nape? ring around the cord around the

touch me my skin is a glisten you’ll call :

 

*

 

what if you were the black paint smeared

across your own dark cheeks?

 

*

 

so you say to the birch skeleton in the bathroom mirror

unravel me i’m all this stuff of the earth. the mirror could be

laughing, could be saying girl, in my light

you’re just another pale :                another unmarried :

 

*

 

you say touch me i’m the bronzer

like there isn’t all this death in here

 

*

 

welcome to the country of white sheets

& black bird cages, of everything-tasseled-is : of everything-

holy, the already-dead, your absence

 

 
 

Indian American poet Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Crazyhorse, Four Way Review, Indiana Review, Muzzle Magazine, Ninth Letter, Tupelo Quarterly, and many more. Shirali's honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, and a “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. Raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Shirali was the Spring 2017 Philip Roth Resident at the Stadler Center for Poetry, and currently serves as a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine.