A One-Sided Conversation with a Headline

Neha Mulay


Death did not immortalize me.

Maybe it was the methadone. But mostly, I willed it, willed it like
my mind was a turntable and death a limited-edition record.
Either way, I became a commentary that lined the cages of
your guinea pigs and grew soft with urine.
Of course, you stopped reading at “porn-star,” disconcerted by
the flashing images of silicone, latex and bodies bouncing like
trampolines, even though you too have hankered for a flashing
image rather than a live one some point.

How predictable.

Honestly, I’d rather not talk to you because all your questions
will be predictable too, like ceramic houses in novelty stores.
You’ll ask me how I became the unsung siren, or why.

But that’s a stupid question.

Ask me about the time I lived in a house that
turned women into husks and how my teeth were
yellowed by the smoke, sharpened by the shadows
that slithered into my bed.

Ask not why I loved him. Ask why I chose him.
Ask me if choice is possible.

Some nights, he would take me out
and we would munch on crystals till the lilacs grew in our eyes,
until we once again donned
our crustacean shells that made our bodies obsolete.

On those nights, I finally felt I existed.

Other nights were different.
Other nights, I realized that his eyes were lulling precursors
to nightmares. And the nightmares?

Bruised carpets and Band-Aids and Splints.
Count the ribs.
When your
kneecaps hit the floor,
count the ribs.
Try to read the water.
Take your organs to pawnshops.

Ask me about time and I’ll tell you that it is
a circle
egg yolk

Red satin in the wind
my body being squeezed
like a flower stalk
the smoke hanging still
in thick air, locks on the railing
his silver daggered eyes
abrasive earth —

Don’t ask me why I stayed. Ask me about the pain,
how it allowed the world to come into bleeding technicolor.
And for fuck’s sake, don’t ask me about my father.

Ask me how it feels to wilt inside a leather shoe in
a carpark, hating the concrete, unable to bear the birth
of the tepid, cruel morning.



Neha Mulay is an Australian-Indian writer who currently resides in Jersey City. She is a current MFA candidate in poetry at New York University. Her poetry has been published in Demos Journal. She has written extensively for publications such as Feminartsy and Honeysuckle Magazine.