poetry
spring/summer 2019

I VISIT THE TOWN WE GREW UP IN, WHERE NOTHING STILL HAPPENS, NOT EVEN TO HIM

by Raena Shirali

Palm fronds, gutter scum, coastal flood zone. Everything comes

back up with the tide. I throw pennies, waist deep & smelling sulfur,

onto shore. Trauma, you’re a bottom feeder. Trauma, you’re worn

so prizelike in this poem. Here : oyster shells shredded our feet

to ribbons. Here : I ran from him & then

 

+

 

I ran back. Every year the neighborhood underwater, 

hurricane parties, baby alligators washing up 

in the gutters, & we’d stand in the runoff, waiting 

to bruise. Trauma, this mud always smelled like sulfur. 

The bodies were bloated 

& he troubled them with sticks.

 

+

 

I revisit the landscape, revise

the landscape, reject the landscape, reconnect,

 

+

 

this trip, with suburbs, marshside, baby alligators he 

& I named & dreamt

of keeping, considered

keeping.

 

+

 

He would laugh at Bollywood dance numbers. Laugh

tucking his fingers into my rolls, like how I laugh now, reflection,

I cannot believe how much of the body 

stays. I laugh at what keeps because it’s foolish, 

errant, the body, him commenting 

now on pictures of girls in bathing suits. Laughing his way out still

 

+

 

& his smile is a gator, everything coming back up, I’m here

throwing sand in my own eyes, come for me, 

someone, I’m waist deep.

 

Photo Credit: Raena Shirali

Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), which won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. Her poetry has received a Pushcart Prize, Gulf Coast’s 2014 Poetry Prize, a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, a VIDA scholarship, a Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University, Cosmonauts Avenue’s 2016 Poetry Prize, has been featured on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and has appeared widely in American Poetry Review, The Nation, Poetry Daily, Blackbird, Diode, and elsewhere. She lives in Philadelphia, where she teaches, serves as Poetry Editor for Muzzle Magazine, and is on the editorial team for Vinyl.

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