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by Nisha Atalie

I wake up & I’m still parts;

officially nothing. 


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.


All eyebrows 

& 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.

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