TW: references to depression, anxiety, self-harm
You’ll mark three breaths in time
with the snake-spitting off the engine,
which sounds like a pair of metal legs
playing footsies under a table,
ktch ktch ktch,
until you turn it off.
Carbon monoxide can be fatal.
If the alarm sounds, please exit the garage in an orderly manner.
Maybe the carburetor’s broken.
You’ll look down to see your arm
speckled like a snow leopard
and yank your left sleeve up.
You’ll grab a basket and reach back to tug up your hood.
When it's on you are Fort Knox, only snugger.
You’ll pull four cheap boxes of ramen,
two yellow bell peppers,
a MTWTFSS pill container,
99 cent deodorant, two IPA tallboys,
and a Valentine’s card on the clearance aisle,
which was two days ago.
There'll be a woman using a walker with
high-rimmed glasses and stains on her
sweatpants and you'll keep passing her
while you remember to pull down your sleeves
lest her searching eyes scan your red craters
that have buried into both your arms and you'll wonder if she
knows how long you've been here
and if she'll rip your hood from your
head and claw your sleeves from your arms and
berate you with that humble speak,
that familiar familial dialect resurrected
from the foothills of Mulshi.
She never will.
You'll count the times
you pass her, and frantically rush to self check-out
when she finally catches your gaze from the pharmacy line
and nods carefully, bestowing her blessing,
and you'll wonder how her calculating,
clammy eyes suffused with oil had
ever scared you.
You’ll take the stairs down and stare
up towards the white noise we've come
to call fluorescence so little
worms crowd your vision, like coughing
too hard in the shower, and the blurriness
makes you dizzy, intoxicated.
At the bottom you'll flurry to the car with red eyes and
hands-on-throat to stop the poison from
Recently, I finally willed myself to sit down and read Crying in H Mart. As I had expected, I finished the memoir in one sitting and was left reeling with nostalgia and emotions. Michelle Zauner’s narration of being choked with memories that surface through the small things you spot has not left my mind, and hence we have this poem. My poem is a response in the conversation the memoir opened for me, and speaks of my own experiences walking down memory lanes along store aisles. Since moving to the US, the feeling of homesickness (but not really) only seems to hit me when I stand in front of the spice aisle in Safeway. It takes me back to how department stores, their parking lots and our car in it, especially after dark, were the first liminal spaces I was exposed to and used to be the first I sought out when I was attempting to avoid spiraling.
Editors: Rajeshwari T.
Image Source: Mick Haupt, Unsplash