Two Poems – Raena Shirali

Grit Cycle II: Rooftop

We lined spent ash on hot black shingles—
                      rows of damage we’d bought into. From up there,
           an out-of-focus expanse: wilting marsh, muddy runoff

behind the old swing set. A far off
                      kicked ball’s echo sounded close.
           The moon hung out in the bleach-blue sky

and we had to make a thing of it.
                      I posed for T’s camera
           with a bottle in my mouth. Slip-feel of streaked

gloss on warm glass. Her hand on my thigh
                      to steady herself. We knew the feeling:
           wanted it: uselessness: limp knees,

unshackled from our brains. Cicadas and gnats
                      chirruped a chorus of sleep
           and bite, and we, too, offered up

all the Southern noise we could muster.
                      T was unhurried howls and khaki shorts,
           no cottonmouth kick, and me, I was decelerate:

                                       I was a long y’all in the mouth of a pond.

i know i am in love again when

light shakes into the cobwebs woven over
all the empty doorframes. when a nearby car’s
bass is a feigned serenade
& the moon seems like a dirty thing. passing
fuselage & hospital lights glint & i’m turned on
thinking they flash for me. me, whose favorite window
features a view that’s mostly ground. me, who’s quiet,
swaddled, blanket-borne
in the fucking eve, waiting on a call
from my only lover, or a friend six states away.
the space between
saying how much i miss everyone i know
& pressing my forehead to my knee
is usually smaller than i think.
the closest body of water
calls itself a river, but it’s stagnant.
i call myself a lot to give,
but that’s an exaggeration. walking the bank,
i trace ripples—lamp-lit contours that fade
into murk. i am two breaths away from saying
i don’t understand happiness
when the voice on the other end of the line
asks if it’s okay
to hang up now. what is the opposite
of blank noise? insert that excess
here. i want to live off it.

Raena Shirali is from Charleston, SC, and currently lives in Columbus, OH, where she is earning her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Banango Street, The Boiler, Boston Review, Fogged Clarity, Four Way Review, Muzzle Magazine, Ostrich Review, Pleiades, Quarterly West, and The Nervous Breakdown. She recently won a 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. She currently serves as the Reviews Editor for The Journal.

Photography by Hannah Reed