wasting disease by Leela Raj-Sankar


my bra, my gym shorts, my

ice packs over my knees. soft hum of

cicada skylark mourning dove through

the window. the night is thinking of

morning condensation on cold glass; i’m thinking of

kissing the girl i was just on the phone with. i am perfect

in my desire—i turn abject terror into 

summer winds and open palms and 

storms of hummingbirds so huge they drown me. my only fear 

is of consumption. my only fear is of my neighbor’s dog howling

desperately from the backyard, i want i want i want. 

like a sparrow’s idiosyncratic call. like 

waking up covered in dew and sliced open 

to the marrow. like realizing no one knows anything about the body except how

to make it look clean. palatable. no one knows anything

about the body except how to make it get down on its knees and pray. 

in the dream, she always kisses me first. i tear open her letters and

lick the envelope’s seal, an awful mimicry of

her mouth on mine. i’m getting good at making and unmaking myself–

i become an exit wound with no place of entry. the poem

becomes my grave, as if in every version of the story the girl on the phone

comes to me and says, i am dying of malnutrition; let me eat you whole, and i say,

yes, yes, devour me. because i know shrinking is my birthright. because i know 

this is an endless cyclical retelling of the history of giving up. 

the truth is, i want more life. i want a relentless

leave-all-the-lights-on sort of hope, less rabbit-heart-in-throat and

more the sound shadows make when i unspool them from

underneath my fourth rib. i want to find a home where all 

brown bodies know how to do is 

grow. i want to open my eyes and realize that it isn’t unattainable.

Leela Raj-Sankar (she/her) is an Indian-American high school freshman from Phoenix, Arizona. Their work has appeared in Stone of Madness Press, Ex/Post Magazine, and Ghost Heart Lit, among others. In their spare time, they enjoys aimless night walks and reading poetry about oranges.

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