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Red Paint

/leela srinivasan


It’s like this: the shadow of a crossfire, a man’s breath & dirty palms—

I saw you first as a honeycomb. You lived in a garden once, the crown of suburban mythos, I swore they said your every follicle was a diamond.

I was infirm & I was devoted. When the garden overgrew, spattered pollen & dust, you crawled into the earth beneath a cypress. Built a sanctuary from the season. Tucked your feathers close to your chest. Warbled your underwater song. It would be easier that way, to be uncountable. Still: some hunters know the pressure points that lead to collapse. Like foxes, they decide when the storm is about to fall.

If I were the mother— if my child were an offering, their lashes clogged with soot— The air, tasting of lemongrass & brine. Your feathers on the ground. There: the prize that you win is not you.

Now I remain & walk the rosy dusk, cup some loose pills from the drugstore they said might calm me down. Where I built this forest & I can erase it if I want to, leave dark smudges on the page, tire tracks all up & down my left hand.

Leela Srinivasan is an Indian-American poet and MFA student at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Meridian, The Inflectionist Review, the tiny journal, Ligeia, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and others. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.


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