Elegy Disguised As a Self-Care Scent Commercial

Gaia Rajan

Attention: have you ever suffered the sudden loss of the
belief that you are invincible? Cried in a subway
corner just to watch everyone look away? Thought you’d be
dead by now? Stopped before confession? Have you
ever inscribed the litany of all you have lost into your
feet, an ugly music when you dance, have you ever?
Gone to churches just to weep at your vanishing in stained glass,
heaving sobs as the pastor’s voice rose, as the windows rattled
in their frames? Have your friends ever become ancestors? Have you
jabbed your knees into soil, struck a match just to see the name
knifed upon the grave, memorized it? Cleaved?
Loved something small and mortal-- claimed a goldfish,
martyred a flower-- and taken its death as evidence of your
new life? Renounced your mouth? Mistaken conquest for survival, bought
one statue after another, drowned your room in unclaimed vintage
photos of people long dead? Given your throat to those who can only
quiet the word sorry, who promise you’re strong, promise you’ll make it,
recite that it’ll never happen to them? Decided your chronic
sorrow is matrilineal, that you were born to carry hazel eyes and
tombstones? Have you misplaced your breath in stuck elevators?
Uttered your limp apologies, pinned them to trees? Have you
vowed to leave your stupid heart at the roadside? Try our scent-- a
whiff of stolen survival, of firefly, gnat, bonfire smoke, of funeral
xenia, of plea, of the shoes and plants and dolls we promise
you will bring salvation for just ten dollars a month, the neon
zeal of your unmaking escaped, escaped again.

Potential Energy

What if instead of trudging to the physics classroom
I let out a scream, my own, let out, as if
it was a dog gnawing at the bars of its cage, as if
when I screamed something shifted in the universe, aliens
alighting or the principal coming out of his office to try
to remember my foreign name, because in every alien movie
there's a hole in the sky and an other to fill it,
organs rearranged again to be useful, the spaceship
so white, so clean, so bloodless, and that was how
I imagined my perfect life, my perfect self who did not loiter
outside physics classrooms and inside closets, who proved
that you can die and not show it, who was believed,
and what if the dog outside my neighbor’s house gnawed
through its cage and leapt up to my cheek outside
the school, and none of it was sinister at all, only
sunlit, and no one came to catch me, tell me I was a bad
daughter, my mother an immigrant alien, tell me I didn’t
fulfill my potential
, or, I disappointed you, or,
I break everything I’m given.

Up, Up, And Away

I’ve been thinking about how in the 1990s
it was illegal to publish comics where good

          or the police didn’t win. The artists sold their chairs, desks,
          houses, wrote origin stories: strong jaw, always white

teeth. I stood on rooftops, unfurled my arms. Make me

more than a girl with a cape. Make me undeniable, blue-

          eyed, fast-fame easy-name god. I didn’t jump. I just wanted

          to look at the city like that, like I owned it. When asked
what power would you have, if you were a superhero
I stumbled over the word invisibility. The origin
          story of an invisible woman is birth. I skipped
          out of kindergarten and aged ten years and still
the question. The weight of my name. Superman died
in 1992, and the height of my power is a rooftop. I want
          these facts to say something about me, to give me
          an origin story, a cause to almost-die for. The way
I broke down with everyone watching because
when you are visible, you are a little farther
          from dead, because you are only visible
          when you are serving or in pieces, because I imagined
if I owned the world or even just a city I would
be saved. When I was a child I didn’t want
          an imaginary friend, only an imaginary villain, finally
          an enemy I could see, and even now I am the same, I am

collecting American rubble, I am the usual
detritus, I am trying so hard to be good.

Up, Up, And Away was first published in Plum Recruit Mag.

Gaia Rajan lives in Andover, MA. She's the Managing Editor of The Courant and the Poetry Editor of Saffron Literary. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, Hobart, Rust+Moth, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, "Moth Funerals," is forthcoming from Glass Poetry Press in fall, and she is a National Student Poet semifinalist. She is sixteen years old.