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The Language of Marriage

_______________this poem is indebted to C.D. Wright’s “And It Came To Pass”

next woman in line & i’ve had

the audacity

to wear red to the ceremony. the language

of non-marriage : repeating i’m happy


with how things are as counterargument

having no response but my own

pleasure & comfort

& the language of non-marriage : people leave, die


& my white friends say you’re so young & take your time

& my white friends say that sucks, i’m sorry they’re pressuring you

but c.d. wrote : “the unconnected life / is not

worth living”— _______. my white partner says i’m so sorry


& nothing more. the color for bad luck changes

depending on context & i explain to my grieving mother

what it means to code-switch—me, the next woman tethered

to a man & wearing black to the reception again, but in a sense


i’m already property, right? like he introduces me by first saying my—.

& c.d. wrote : “something else is out there / goddamnit”

but c.d., i turn & am a kaleidoscope of other people’s want

& who has a map for this? not my kin


nor the white friends perpetually poised in lives

of their own making—the language of their marriages : pastel af

& posing on their knees in a succession

of fields, & i want someone to take my hand in the sun


perhaps in a gazebo on a beach like in the film i criticize

because it is cliché, perhaps i cannot complain

that shades of gold never visit here, _____here,

between red & black ____there is only brown, & what,


really, have i learned from the language

of resistance : c.d, what if there is no antecedent

to this feeling : what if there’s nothing else out there

& i’ve spent my life envisioning it?


Charm in Its Southern Variety / Have You Ever Felt So Detached From Your Own Upbringing You Could Sail Away, A Non-Entity Slackening Like A Small Creekwave

this poem is indebted to Morgan Parker’s “ALL THEY WANT


spring & sunflare feral / each mast penetrates a little / sky

all they see is my fun my summer my yes

inventing games using cups and pillowcases / asking if i’d like to join in

i would not

ocean a slate always being rewritten & i am the mud underneath this marshy haven / greasy sticky bottom of cocktails by the pool

the air is salt but also snowmelt & i’m nothing i’ve not been asked to be

i’m asking about the degree / to which skin can punish

i mean i’m self-isolating in a group of white friends like is this 2003 or—

if it’s always just me : mud : mirrored : / _______revolutionary, then, to own my narcissism

to bellygaze alone on the shorewall / where no element warms me / spiderwebs breaching white space between marshgrass

language is excess ___________ / ___________ a boat sails by

i was raised here / made here / my life is a lie


Meditation on Targeted Ads

______If it were possible.

To tuck in the weight

of my wanting, to don

_____________the frilly thing & move my hips

___just so, side

_________to side, pop-song-

careless & holding

______my disorder’s hand.

To grip elastic & suspend

the endless pressing—my shame

______________unfurled. I am just this kind

___of girl living in this kind

__________of world. I have a particular breed

of dog & enjoy watered-down

______meal prep. Inexplicably ricocheting

between types, what corporeal

form have I? Yes,

______________if it were possible. To hold

___myself in & turn the torso

_________just so. Or to let

my body go.


RAENA SHIRALI is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), which won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a 2019 PEN America Writer’s Emergency Fund Grant, a 2018 VIDA scholarship, a 2017 Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University, and a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. Shirali’s poems & reviews have appeared widely in American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A Day, The Nation, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives in Philadelphia, where she is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University, and serves as a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine.


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