The Art of Rising

I lay motion and scroll.  Look up a few exes. Go on the explore page and compare myself to beautiful women. My demons come up for air, and I fight to govern my body. I do not see myself beautiful. I see myself messy. Insecure. Afraid.

Some days, I am more than enough. Today, I am anchored to my triggers. I sink where it is dark blue and heavy. Where no one will come looking. Where I am only safe if I don’t stay too long. My anxiety manifests, and I shrink. Even when I am productive, it is a quiet vinyl playing a reckless tune. It tells me that I am unlovable. That I am too much. That every unrequited relationship is my fault.

Now, I am a flurry of destination. The car ride back from his brother's house. The fast tears. The heaving. How my body was his secret. How this caused the shrinking. How a flower shrivels when it gets no sun. All the flowers I've been given. Their closed blind, table top suffering. My Brooklyn apartment. The bottles of wine. Every time I put a prayer to my lips. The liquor store on Prospect and Nostrand. The cat calls. The man in the black hat who offered to walk me home. My 21st birthday party. That kitchen. The lime and the tequila. My panties hanging off a black stiletto. My shaking thighs. His unwanted hands. All the hands after. 

The ones who promised love. The ones who mimicked death. The one I found safety in. How he reminded me of my father. How my father was the first to leave. How death is the trigger. How my anxiety has always been the result of loss. How loss triggers loss. How hands trigger hands. How, sometimes, a day in bed feels like the only the solution. I swallow myself alive so no one else has the chance to. 

I know how to sink without drowning. How to escape without disappearing. I don't stay in the dark place long enough to forget that I can write myself out of it. That I can push past the current. I know the art of rising. I know how good it feels to breathe life into a new day. I know the weight of depression. The panic of anxiety. I know how to fight for myself. How to savor the little things. Like letting hands hold me. Like trusting they will be gentle this time. 

Election Night

It is 6 PM 

November 8th, 2016.

Vanessa and I are in a restaurant 

drinking a pitcher of sangria. 

On any other night, 

we would be talking about guys 

or poetry, or guys who do poetry 

but tonight, 

we swallow fear 

between sips of red wine

and chopped fruit. 

 

Tonight

we have a front row seat 

at the apocalypse, 

but the tv

hanging over the bar  

is on mute. 

 

When a state turns 

red as spilled blood 

on stolen soil,

it doesn’t make a sound. 

 

But the howls of my ancestors do.

 

7:00 PM and I tweet:

 

“I don’t want to have to write a poem

about trump winning this election. 

it will literally kill me.”

 

7:30 PM

I imagine the sangria 

is poisoned.

what if I’ve been drinking 

what can kill me all along? 

 

I stick an orange slice 

between my teeth, 

and suck out the juice. 

this is the most powerful 

I feel all night,

all this sweet nectar 

at the mercy of my mouth. 

 

I was a whole fruit once. 

my family was, too

before we were 

picked from trees

and squeezed into pulp

so White America 

can enjoy her Sunday Brunch. 

 

How many oceans do I have to cry

before they taste the salt? 

 

It’s 8:30 PM

and fuck Florida,

fuck her oranges too,

fuck everyone in this restaurant 

who isn’t grinding anxiety 

between their teeth. 

 

It must be nice 

to be so privileged

that you don’t hear 

your stomach growl

before you eat. 

 

I am a nation of brown girls starving, 

wondering when we became the meal,

realizing we have always been the meal. 

the menu didn’t change 

America just got comfortable 

showing his teeth. 

 

9:30 PM and there is a man 

across the bar celebrating. 

his joy strangles our grief 

without saying a word. 

 

10:30 PM 

and I am at a loss for words.

Vanessa tells me a story

about her grandmother & Obama,

I think about the trees growing 

in her hometown in Ecuador, 

how safe those roots must feel,

but going back isn’t even an option

for some people. 

 

What do you do

when your home threatens 

to swallow you whole?

when you drank all the poison, 

and now your glass is as empty 

as the promises that brought you here?

 

I am an unstable boat 

in the belly of a beast,

but this nation 

still can’t stomach my anger, 

will still call this poem “overreacting,”

will still say some shit like “well, it didn’t kill you.” 

 

Yet.  

 

It is 11 PM 

and Trump is going to be President…

as if America never held me in her womb,

as if that wasn’t my first drowning. 

 

I think about how 

I’m not going to leave the country,

even though this country has left me,

and that is the saddest truth...

 

that I am stuck 

in the place I am being devoured,

with no other word to call it, 

but “home.” 


"Election Night" performed at The Definitive Soapbox

An original poem by Aman Batra, performed at The Definitive Soapbox (Fox Coffeehouse, Long Beach, CA).