Race Harish

Lovers in Pompeii

at the end of the world, no one
comes to collect the bodies. no
one has time for last rites. 
the ground is strewn
with undug graves
marked with splintered
cricket legs 
old report cards 
wedding rings 
divorce papers 
and breadcrumbs. 

i walk, half-carrion and half-celestine, 
body rent asunder by some dreadful metamorphosis. 

the trail ends at your
feet, which point
north. overgrown
with moss and
littered with rabbit
fur, the cavities in
your skin— fodder
for the roaches, the
knots in your hair—
nests for the vultures. 

you take momentary
repose in this patch of
idle land, a fallen angel
at the end of the world.
like me, something
divine amidst the decay. 

once, you would sit in your dad’s corolla,
blue-light phone glow dancing on your face, revealing 

lips— blissfully bare. 

once, i gave you my lip gloss and told you 
“simulate the feeling.” 
you told me not to insult you. 

once, i was the ghost that haunted your rear-view mirror. 
careful, objects reflected are closer than they appear and 
to languish unkissed in a world like this is a fate i would never want for you. 

so i lay down in the fallow beside you / and i take your hand / and the jackal sings an elegy / and our hearts pulse in time / and there is no more time for mourning / and our fingers lay root in the ground / and sweat pools between our thighs / and it soils the earth / and it waters the weeds / and i weep / and you weep / and this barren world weeps / and the sun is withering / and the sky is weary / and the buzzards pick us clean / and we are free of sin and sorrow both / and i close my eyes / and you close your eyes / and i am back home / and i am in the woods / and i am riding shotgun in your beat up corolla / and i am drinking the pain from your war-torn lips / and i am more cowardly than before / and i am braver than i was / and there is no glass separating us now / and i am numb to it all / and the maggots have their way / and the ash begins to fall / and like lovers in pompeii 




Disillusionment of a Girl


A girl’s heart is pisspoor and ungrateful. It is the most terrible of wanderers and beggars. It needs what it cannot afford. It is hungry and unclean. A sweet butterfly bashes itself against his bone prison in the cavity of a girl’s chest. He falls through the cracks and into her stomach. He whimpers, lily-green wings made lovelier with rips and tears and delicate blood. Lacerations in gossamer bleed prettily like gums under a dentist’s probe. And like bleeding gums, the wounds bare teeth. Everything a girl loves grows teeth eventually. 

Tangerines are like anesthesia for a girl’s disillusionment. Temporary stoppers to the crack-crack-cracking of her heart every time she crosses the street. So she pops them like she does her Adderall, and the juice drip-drip-drips from her broken lips into the cut under her chin. It settles there, searing, and it makes her feel kickass for a grand total of two seconds. 

A girl constructs intricate rituals to numb her disillusionment. She draws stars on the shins she refuses to shave. They look like puddles in a forest at night. She holds her breath when she passes graveyards. She sits alone in her elementary school playground. She watches the world turn from the top of the green slide. 

She makes up a dramatic love affair with Isabella, the princess of Beech Street. A girl is helplessly medieval in such engagements. She yearns for the blade, for chain mail and for padding, for martyrdom and for tokens of favor from a lady not yet betrothed. Chivalry lives on in a girl. 

After all, what is a girl but a love song to her friends? 

Some girls play god, others work at devotion. Isabella is a study in carefully practiced divinity. The curve of her arched brow and the swell of her burnt umber gaze are the result of rehearsed omnipresence. When her legs dangle off the porch swing, all a girl can do is kneel and swear fealty and kiss her pearl ankles. False idols like Isabella are how a girl self-medicates. 

A girl’s altar is Isabella’s bedroom floor. She lies back, hands clutching her stomach, ribs sore and heart burning from laughter. Isabella lies beside her, head tucked into the crook of her neck. There are paint stains on their cheeks and flour dust on their jeans. The carpet scratches the skin where their shirts ride up. They cling to one other, pinkies interlocking, the rug burn making the spaces where their skin meets all the sweeter. Isabella’s pink acrylics dig into her skin and the dents they leave remind a girl that they are both flesh-and-bone-things, and not stars. 

A girl’s first love is rife with plausible deniability.

When someone like Isabella is brushing her hair, a girl can almost forgive her father. When someone like Isabella is smiling that mean smile, a girl can almost ignore the vultures that have circled her since she first learned self-awareness. When someone like Isabella exists, it almost doesn’t matter that the street opens its concrete mouth to swallow her every time she tries to cross. 


About the Author: Race Harish is a sixteen year old and a junior from Central New Jersey. They draw inspiration from their own tangled relationship to girlhood and womanhood, their Indian roots, and the ugly anguish of teenage desire. Their work has appeared in the Writer's Circle Journal at writerscircleworkshops.com, as well as in several local magazines, and is either published or forthcoming in The Cloudscent Journal.