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broken promise friday morning,

heat rising off blacktop like

a ghost trying to find its way back home. a thousand boys

standing on street corners

naming themselves nothing, yes,

the ones holding their breath, yes,

hands like bird’s wings and a dream like lavender

that we don’t remember, wait—

what was his name? how old was he? what did he sound like

when he laughed? no, scratch that,

i want you to bring him back, tape his body together

and give it to his mother as

a christmas gift. do you remember?

do you remember? do you

remember? every time that sentence leaves someone’s mouth

a gun fires somewhere, but

don’t think about that now, please, mind the gap,

step back, put your hands up before you

end up like him too, before they hand you another hat

or identity and you end up like him too, dear, please forget

there’s a word other than alive to describe him,

just imagine him laughing in a home that isn’t this one,

reborn on someone’s scarred shoulders, do you

remember? do you remember? friends and romans and

countrymen, i interrupt with more news, of

a lynching, and another, and another,

though that doesn’t happen anymore! we’re just being

melodramatic! a million crows on the powerlines. a million

worn-out sneakers and broken ribs and

hearts pouring from bloody noses and the tension that snaps like a string. do you

remember? do you remember that

we lived here? do you remember that you existed? in the summer silence, our

frilly white dresses,

loose collars, too-big suit jackets, every

pearl of water, perfect body outlined in

one-way glass. the july that said, don’t call me a

casualty, the july reborn on hands and knees, concrete

bones and eyes like knives and

lungs that refused to give out. when the gun goes off it spills

marigolds and water lilies and carnations, but

do you remember? do you remember the crimson

roses? the sleepless nights? the day you came home to your

mother, grinned with all your teeth and said,

look, ma! not a single exit wound! while the city burned

behind you? boyhood means searching. girlhood means writhing.

growing up on fire means learning to breathe

through the smoke, your blood

the songs of lost saints. this town made of chlorine and

oak trees and cigarettes. the mecca we built for an unfeeling god

in the hollows of our cheeks. i want you to look at this place and say,

now, everywhere, always. i want you to look at this place and

think of bruised hips and overripe fruit. i want you to look at this place and say,

do you remember? do you remember? do you remember? do you



start the timer, dear, we’ve got half an hour left of meaningless small talk / placid smiles / knives

clinking / would you pass the potatoes, please? / there’s a tomorrow morning in this nightmare, i

think / the soggy pancakes / the curtains not thrown back till one in the afternoon / the blankets

pressed into our sweaty skin / there’s a motivational speaker telling me this is all one cosmic

joke, to go back to bed, dream of teeth tearing through wrists again & again & again / that’s

disgusting, darling, you don’t need that much hot sauce / a clearing of throats & palms set flat on

the tablecloth / excuse me, i’m sorry to intrude, but are you in love? are you in love? / that’s the

answering machine again, baby / shut it off, the message doesn’t mean anything, your food’s

getting cold / are you happy? are you happy? / broken record / the same six songs played over &

over until they only sound like memory / almost-argument / cold nod / two teenagers taking their

cigarette break on the asphalt outside your apartment complex / when am i going to get a

reaction out of you? / in eight years, when this corpse finally decays? / motivational speaker

bought a new thesaurus & repeated the same speech three days later, nobel prize in her hand / the

hand that’s still clammy / that’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop / it’s the rice that tastes of

wet dead skin, the strands of your straggly hair curling like snakes / did you cook this? it tastes

amazing, darling / but i think maybe next time we’ll just get takeout / i heard the chinese

restaurant down the street has dumplings that are to die for / we’re almost out of time. we’re

almost out of time but it doesn’t end after rinsing the dishes / the girl’s still dead, in case you

were wondering / in case you wanted to know when the embalming is / or the funeral / even

though you weren’t invited / the body hasn’t started to smell yet, what does that mean? / i ask

instead: but what of the dream where i tear this house down? / where i burn the linens hanging

in the backyard? / the birds wouldn’t forgive you / the birds wouldn’t forgive you & neither

would i, you know that, you know you’re asking too much of me. / we’re almost out of time, so

put the smudged wineglasses back in the cabinet / pack up your fake grins & too-loud laughs for

another day, another evening of pretending to be something we’re not / i’ll crawl into my bed &

you’ll crawl into yours & we’ll think nothing of this memory / i hope you know i won’t ever stop

feeling wrecked / i hope you know you did this to me / but what of this liminal space? the birds

flying south for the winter? / one day, you’ll look at the world & not see the blood on your hands

/ one day, you’ll look at the world & realize you still burn white-hot / in the darkness at your


Listen to Leela read "andromache" and "dinner in which the body is still warm" below:

00:00 / 05:57

LEELA RAJ-SANKAR is a young poet and science lover from Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, painting, and making far too many Richard Siken references. You can find more of her writing on her blog at

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