by Nisha Atalie
I wake up & I’m still parts;
I could tell you I was broken up
cleanly, even halves, a creature
of sanitized cuts with minimal
bloodletting. A lie of apparition.
It’s like my short stint as a waitress,
that night I had to keep inserting
fresh white tablecloths under
the prime rib to cover up the spillage.
I, too: there are days so much of me
spills out in thick, sticky red
that someone has to be called
to contain it with fresh linen.
None of this answers the question
of who will claim me.
I’ve asked everyone: grandfathers,
aunts, politicians, bureaucrats
& their nation-states. Every time someone
places a claim I crumble like goat
cheese again & we are forced to reckon
with the possibility of error,
to hope for a factory reset. Ancestors laugh
in opposing cadences. Who will edit me now,
who will pluck or disentangle,
decipher me all the way into the deep?
They say mixed like it all breaks down
along a readable margin without
curdling. A self
predicated on exception.
& lucid dreams of places
that never existed.
Nisha’s writing has appeared in Tiger Moth Review, Columbia Poetry Review, LandLocked, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago, and is the recipient of the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize.