The Things I Called You Were Never Quite Right
But I was preoccupied with
wonder. A cursory ask: is gay-boy
the same as femme, the same as
gender- queer, the same as sharp, then soft,
then wading destitute through
swamps of molasses? I was so
distracted, drowned in the black rush
of mascara in untouched eyelashes.
Pulsing with your reflection, you
vibrating with joy, you too fast
for men’s shoes, you jangling glass
in a velvet satchel. And
bodies curdling and
uncurdling in solitary brine,
mirrored in patterned jars, and me—
pickle sweet, sticky
queer, watching and filling
with something sleek/
unmoved/ fearless/ essential/
across two panes
of tortured glass.
Maybe it started when [ ]
slipped away. We all loved her so;
her sweet face dripping wax,
her ledger forearms, and anyway,
weren’t we to mark our fathers?
Maybe when we wrote [ ] an elegy.
Pathless woods, lidless buckets
Funeral pyre, genially flicking.
You need two forks to run a current
From toe to shining toe.
So sweet of [ ], sharing his spliff. So
kind of [ ], offering us his flashbacks.
I never knew [ ] danced herself bony, in her
mirror flashing costume, eyelid flashing
face. But I knew, knew breath through
panic. Knew when to call it in.
Call your Indian parents. Collect
the transformations of your fathers’
mustached face. Unfolding of mercy, sea
singing of despair. Knew together
the fading of fireworks, that Americans
dream of ending.
I knew, but we knew. Little hurricanes
of misplaced sand. Little family on
plastic cell phones. Little immigrant kids
holding hands, gripping our helium light
bodies to asphalt. Every funeral
a transpacific trip, every song a frontier song.
Sagaree Jain is a poet, writer, and researcher. She grew up in the Silicon Valley and studied History at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the co-creator of the Turmeric Project, which spotlights queer South Asian art, and she currently works in human rights. Sagaree is fascinated by women, South Asia, poetry, scientific racism, reproductive justice, queer health, decolonization, migration, surveillance, on and on. She lives in Brooklyn.
Featured photograph by Karissa Lang