By: Aanika Eragam
I didn’t notice she was missing till the world began withering,
weeping willows sweeping banyan seeds down rabbit holes,
coyotes howling for mercy as dandelion feathers choked
their newborns’ throats. I sat on a swing in an empty playground
listening for the hum of her lullaby through the hiss of the
thunder’s crack, rifled through her drawstrings and
searched for an explanation, a peeling letter or an empty pillbox
or a scalpel sticky with my blood and guts, with the part
of me I can no longer find despite hours spent rustling
through grotty drawers and watching rustic home videos,
suckling my own thumb and falling back in time.
I thought I could find her memory tucked between the photo
albums in the attic, cook her favorite ravioli and watch her
stumble through the back door, inhale her residue from
abandoned comforters and black-and-white movies but
she only lingers in the honeydew desolation of dispirited
mosquitoes huddling for heat against flickering lamp posts,
in tire tracks that just seem to disappear off the coast
of dirt roads overgrown with musk thistle and disquietude.
She’s stuck on the crevices of my croaking skull like
morning mildew, a pestering fruit fly or a salamander,
slipping from my fingers each time I get close.
I feel her presence on déjà vu days of fallen evergreen
bristles and snowless winters and the Sun tumbling from
the sky— everything that should be but isn’t.
My veins still scream for her on weekends,
at nighttime, at the junction between the streetlight that
pauses for a second too long and the cornerstone flower shop
where I steal chrysanthemums that are inexplicably but surely
her favorite. I pick their petals off, thinking she loves me
she loves me not— always stopping before the last one falls.
I want to give up on her but she’s embossed in my blood,
I hear her heartbeat when my face touches the pillow because its
echoing from the wind chime metronome of my own, she is
as much a part of me as the skin interloping like ivy on my bone.
I realize this as I’m counting the rhinestone hair tangled
in the bristles of my comb, I realize this as I’m looking at
myself in the mirror, past my fake glasses and fine tipped
mascara at the murky sea drifting within my lifeless orbs—
there is a girl drowning in there and I’ve forgotten her name
but it’s dancing at the tip of my tongue in a
licorice wand jumble,
It would stumble out.
The world tells me that I’m drifting away.
Mother presses her ear against my bedroom door each night,
tells me she’s scared I’ll stop breathing but I’m scared
I’ve already stopped. I ask her if she remembers the girl
who I’m searching for? I tell her she’s woven of constellations
and balmy sunshine and marigolds blossom from her eyes.
Mother tells me she used to know of a girl like this,
her eyes filming over in milk skin irises, mouth suddenly dry,
reaches a hand like peeling willow branch and turns my
chin towards the mirror, tells me to look close, she’s right there.
But I don’t recognize her.
Is it still searching if no one believes I am lost?