“This Sultry Thing Called Home,” a Bad Survivalist Poem by Dhwanee Goyal

Loosely after Katia Krafft, a French volcanologist. Also somewhat inspired by John Ashbery.

There were no landscapes where I lived, only water, its animals.

Still, my father used to come home with fire burning the ends of his moustache.

You know the story of birth: how woman meets woman, shrieks for every tragedy that could have been. Woman says, ‘Child, there’s plenty of time, so many landscapes to see. I will found a city for you. Every volcano in its heart will have your name.’

Now, I have more volcanoes than I have friends. The acid of my body does not choke me, only turns me into a mountain of my own.

If you have to know, my tongue has traced every crevice in this city, it tells me the lies that it won’t tell itself. How its wormholes ratchet through the volcanoes, the many lives they demand here and then and then:

a) May-Britt Moser will wear a dress with embroidered grid cells when collecting her Nobel Prize. That story will never reach a stopping point.

b) Elizabeth Blackburn and Barbara McClintok, a raging meteor.

c) Patricia Bath says, cultivate all their eyes—there will be so many of them.

d) I see Katherine Johnson, her hands chalked with each one of her years.

e) Marie Curie will say to me, ‘There are no mistakes. Sink your hands deep into the lava, grab the mud monster by its lapel. Begin.’

I do not listen to the men—they do not know enough about the weight of a beginning.

Yes, and I have started—what was there to wait for?

My body, me, all our chemicals, the dying ache, our wants, our addictions, the convexes of our skins.

There is no resting place, only the embrace of my husband and our children.

Let me tell you that I did not drown. I was not killed. See,

each exhale is an eruption of its own.

Dhwanee Goyal (she/her) is a sixteen-year-old student from Maharashtra, India. An editor-in-chief of Indigo Literary Journal, her work appears or is forthcoming in Claw & Blossom, Whale Road Review, Kissing Dynamite, and more. Her Twitter handle is @pparallell, and her micro-chapbook, Kasauli Daydreams, is out from Ghost City Press. The first prize winner of the Poetry For Our Times competition, she is an Adroit 2021 mentee, and an alumna of Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. She is probably drafting a novel that she may or may not finish (or even start).

Image: deseret.com

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