Raena Shirali

The Downing

The way your apartment windows got that lens flare
effect in early spring. The way umbrellas vomit, turn

inside-out, wiring screaming for relief. The way on
Sunday mornings your bed was hot with hangover and

cold with morning dew. The way I thought of
wedding gowns instead of saris, of bangs

and protruding collarbones instead of
bindhis and maroon dupatas. The way

your face strained, sweated on a ten
speed. The way I forgot India, wrinkled relatives

and garbage trucks that display “Horn! Ok. Please”
on their front bumpers. The way you grabbed the fat

just under my belly button and told me
to lose weight. The way my mother

scowled under chandelier, told me to eat
my potatoes – did I not want my potatoes

do I ever eat I’m skin and bones and no
I can not have another drink.
The way I

ran up the walkway on the Cooper River
Bridge, intentioned, unintentioned. The way

I gasped for air and then, black. The way
I don’t remember walking ten blocks

and ghettos and puddles of puke. The way
I woke up looking at the ceiling of an

ambulance. The way a cigarette, loyal, still laid
tucked behind my ear. The way the attending nurse

said, “Someday, everything gets better.”
The way you turned into fog, or rust.

The way leeches smile, the way choking
feels like swallowing gold.


Raena Shirali is from Charleston, SC, and lives in Columbus, OH, where she is earning her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University. Her work has appeared in The Boiler, Fogged Clarity, Four Way Review, Pleiades, and The Nervous Breakdown. She recently won the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Contest.