Finally I was free to love anything I wanted.
Instead I spent weeks charting each year
of my history—I was beautiful, I was good,
all my friends were beautiful and good, I lived
in a narrow house where every night the ceiling
closed on me like a lid. I hid knives
in my textbooks, dreamt each night of a white table
in a muddy field, a gun on the table,
a woman holding the gun. I practiced answering her,
rehearsed my own name, still bruised,
so believe me, it wasn’t a surprise to hear them years later
with floodlights, shouting my name. They said it wrong,
they always did, and on every missing poster
they’d painted my old face, so what was I to do,
in the city they made evidence? I ran,
and cab drivers wouldn’t look at me. I ran, and felt
for a fingerhold, left nail marks on the interrogation table’s
wood belly. I entered through the keyhole
to a houseparty full of strangers. Racketed
through the house’s narrow corridors,
a pile of knees. And every time I woke up
from the white table I woke without pain,
remembering nothing, my own name on my lips.
For months, I watched them grieve me—
now it’s finally summer, my friend names her goldfish
after me, the locusts come down on the hills, turning everything
bone-white, there’s an ad in the newspaper for my body
and then it’s over. I am free to love anything I want.
And still I hate the black car down the road.
Still I check every bathroom for cameras.
Gaia Rajan's work has been published in the Kenyon Review, Split Lip Magazine, diode, Muzzle Magazine, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the cofounder of the WOC Speak Reading Series, the Junior Journal Editor for Half Mystic, and the Web Manager for Honey Literary. Her debut chapbook, Moth Funerals, was published in 2020 by Glass Poetry Press, and her second chapbook, Killing It, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. You can find her online atgaiarajanwrites.com, or at @gaia_writes on Twitter.