Tonight, the TV reports, herds of cattle throw themselves into the flames of the Amazon and roll out in batches from an oven at click to deliver. Mother is still scrubbing the dishes at the sink, her hand rotating slowly as I eat my burger. My friend calls to say she got the job at the big oil and gas company. She asks if I want to celebrate with her at the new vegan restaurant in town. I take the train to meet her on the 14th. My god, you’re big, she gasps. It’s the new hormonal birth control, now where is that damn restaurant. She orders a broccoli and I order a leg. After my fifth vegan I realize that my friend is gone. In fact, the whole restaurant and the streets surrounding it had disappeared, and I could touch the tip of the empire state building when I stretched my am. I keep eating until I break off from the East Coast and float away. Soon anarchists and queers come and build houses on me. They grow tomatoes and chase chickens for fun. I miss mother. I hope my sister helps her with the dishes sometimes.

Artwork by Marcel Dzama Untitled, 1999.

Sex Club

I put on my spectacles last Thursday night
To go to the Sex Club.
I fed the cat, boiled some water for tea, watered my succulents, and then
Drove fifteen minutes to Joanne’s.
I brought brownies because I knew Beatrice
Was allergic to chocolate.
Donald was wearing the jeans that showed off
His butt. His shirt said, “Meet Me At The Sex Club.”
Mimi the president insisted on selling
The Sex Club shirt
For twenty-five dollars even though I said we should go for twenty.
And now only three people have bought it and we still do not
Have enough money for our annual luncheon.
We sat in a circle on foldable chairs with notes on today’s topic,
“Female pleasure and equality.” Bob had recommended
A book during last week’s meeting and
No one bothered to read it because what does Bob know.
Rajni volunteered to lead the discussion because she and her
Husband Raj went to some sex camp up in New Hampshire
And now she knows everything. As everyone except Beatrice
Nibbled on the brownies, Bruce crossed his arms.
I’ll start by saying that the neck is a very important erogenous zone.
Joanne objected and said he was being presumptuous.
Ever since I got caught in a house fire as a child my skin
Never really recovered. She pulled down her
Turtleneck and everyone gasped.
She started sobbing. Deep in thought, Bob said,
This is why fireproofing your house is important.
Everyone nodded. When it was time
To go home Donald asked what I would be doing
Tonight. I twirled a curl in my hair.
He went beetroot and asked if I wanted
To come see his plants. We can have some tea.
It was then that I remembered I did not turn off my kettle.
And that was how my house went
Down in flames last Thursday,
And how I came to be living in Donald’s guest room.
His succulent is pretty neat.

Artwork by Marcel Dzama “On a Revolution”

ode to kali uchis

you remind me to feel like
शहद, and i don’t need to translate
myself. you’re not afraid

of your body like i am
trying not to be, in the light
pouring into my bedroom, i do

dance to your music, feel
like i can be lovely, brown शक़्क़र
thick and holy and soft, tequila

miel y cafe, una mezcla;
you make me comfortable
with using my tongue, here

and there, i am so strange
in places, cloud born for sailing
i think i could taste

down to the pit of a cherry, smack
my sweet lips on society, dreamgirl
unpinnable, quick as a cigarette

temper, teeth sunk in the neck 
of a book, stories
make astronaut out of me, shoot

that little girl up to space,
factory where dreams are made, use
that crushed syrup of strings

and voice salted to caramel;
in my language, काली means darkgirl or
the divine feminine; i am called after her.

Image from “After the Storm” music video by Kali Uchis ft. Tyler the Creator

Amma, Acha & Malayalam ft. english

അമ്മ (Amma)
My Amma’s Malayalam is Trivandrum slang,
shifting between simple
churidar and formal sari in a blink.
trishurpooram cacaphony is her laugh,
words the speed of onam boat races
on slow crashing waves of kovalam beach.
It is every spice bubbling
in my Ammuma’s cheenachatti,
both sweet sharkara and sour achar
Chutni podi with chilli podi by her hand.
Her Malayalam hits hard
Ammuma’s soft palms, Appupa’s rare playfulness;
Her Malayalam is a 22-year-old recipe, came along to flavour a desert.

My Amma’s english is accented
with Malayalam, from ancestral
beef fry to salmon grill
Other worlds and words with a twist of her own
Kovalam softened by corniche calm,
chilli podi, sounds of two cities, date syrup
and desert sand filling
the gaps in her english
“Yalla pogam!” She yells “Mafi Mushkil, Aathma!”
Sharkara lacing her laugh,
it echoes loudly in between
the buildings of Hamdan St.

Appupa said my laugh is like hers,
I carry it safe in my voice box.
My Malayalam is a mirror  
of her slang, her lullaby my tongue
Trishupooram still resounding in them.

They complain they can’t understand her,
her laugh too loud, her accent too strong for their weak ears
They demand us altered for their palate
demand silence, compliance
for their tongues to handle.

Amma did not move
for me to be silent;
our laughs are trapped ancestral joy, they died
for the spices you came to our shores for,
they died. Our laughs are eulogy
folded into our voice boxes.

Does your tongue burn?
Here, have the water–
our laughter will not drown again

അച്ഛാ (Acha)
My Acha’s malayalam drips
on the page, fountain pen sprouting
rhymes, rhythms, words
of a Love, land,
loss, gain,
home, no home, new home, old home,
dreams to come, dreams left behind,
shore he came to, shore he left,
a sea, a kadal that watched him come
and go over and over and over–
the second half of his life,
the first half he refuses to forget.

He polishes an english accent
with experience, age, command
and Malayalam slips in, a jewel found:
film comes filim, his english crashes
under Malayalam exclamation,
the language of his soul sees no barrier.

An architect of words, an architect of worlds
an architect on two shores, he built
poems, he built places,
built a love for words in his Molu,
built a home, a city for his daughter.

This new city gentrifies her tongue;
he wonders if he can build
a bridge, a boat for his daughter lost in the kadal
between the poems of his soul and
this new city she speaks of.

Artwork by Dayanita Singh “go away closer”

please see where the blood is darkest on my drawn brow

please see
where the blood is darkest
on my drawn brow
it turned my rose
a warm amber
and the flash
makes it shine
like the color was poured in a glass

the blood on my face diasporic
traveling down my cheek,
a bumpy continent
— like it knew where to walk
from the sharpest point
of my temple
not straight down
I guess I rolled a little
on the sidewalk after I fell
and I spread it some
it’s a map
complete with a steady flow,
a gushing and swollen source of life
a gash
giving birth

the only thing I own
is the sticky scar
after the blood turned brown
on my towel
hardened but the wash
took it off

I sent word that I was bleeding
that pain has started growing
on my head
like the only tiny flower
and the silence I received
told me to bury the sprouting thing

I lost the metaphor
along with some luggage
that I never carried
and children
I was never meant to bear

I mean to say that sometimes
I feel like a weak vessel
for the world’s crying
I fall onto the sidewalk
and into the stupor
into the fermented rye,
into a thick dimension of smoke  
And I lay on the sidewalk
and spread the blood
in my attempt to pose
for the maw of a snapping camera

Artwork by Paula Rego “dog woman”

two mouths

but for him, i have tenderness –
sparkle of drum
fizzing from the lip
of basement below ribcage;
fine-grained pulse & cotton stupor
snow, eyefuls of
soft, syncopated
nodding to the music.


and for you, i am tender –
bruised grape lip
bitten. mind on heart; junebug
jumping against glass.
this sore takes so long
to heal, i am tired
of searching the mirror,
waiting for violet scar.

Artwork by Linda Cleary, “Still Life with Apples – Tribute to Paul Cezanne”, 2014

I’m a Slave to Strawberry Ice-Cream

She’s my dominatrix,
I her slave. Bound & gagged,
hands tied, mouth wide.
Drive home & she’s all I’m thinking about
after the bag of Fritos, half a Hoagie sandwich for lunch.
She calls to me telepathically.
Smell her creamy goodness from the driveway.
Put down the burgundy leather suitcase,
take off coat,
throw it anywhere, I don’t care.
Kitchen still like I left it:
Dirty plate,
syrup-covered pancake,
a piece eaten away.
Too late in the day
for flapjacks.
Purchased her cheaply at the Food Emporium last night.
Freezer door ajar.
Dig past thighs of chicken,
bottle of Vodka,
frozen vegetables
to get to her.
She’s a cold bitch by now.
Spoon penetrates,
scoop out bits of real strawberries.
Bring to lips,
in mouth, on tongue.
Delicious delight, united
& this is only the beginning of her sweet torment.

Written by Shane Allison
Collage courtesy of author, “Chocolate Candies”