Lift the iron chest by its handles, a little muscle can save your toes from getting crushed/ drive the knife through the ripe melon in one stroke/ stop chewing the wire, dig your incisors in the insulation and pull/ stop playing thumb fights, you are old enough for arm wrestling/ Did you let those boys bully you in school?/ don’t whine about a small bruise, stop shaking the other leg/ dilute the tincture before soaking cotton in it, that way it hurts less/ roll a fist around your thumb and aim for the region right above the stomach/ boys can swear as long as they don’t mean it/ don’t get up from the dining table, she will serve everything/ don’t stay inside the house all the time, the company of women is turning you into one/ What are those bangles doing on your study table? don’t wear glass bangles – your wrists will go soft/ on Sundays, go play cricket with other boys in the park/ stop telling everyone you’re not a boy/ but I try to play with boys at the school every day/ this is how you unbuckle your belt and pull it out in seconds/ this is how you lash it on the wall, make it a whip/ this is how you sit, back straight and shoulders tense/ this is how you stand if you don’t want to be called a chakka/ this is how you get back if they still do/ this is how you quit dancing with a smile on your face/ this is how you smile – just enough but not the sugary kind/ this is how you burn the skirt you wear every day/ this is how you light a match without burning your fingers/ this is how you ensure that the entire thing is burnt in one go, or else you will have to light another match/ this is how you protect girls from other men/ this is how to love a woman, and if you can’t there are no other ways/ this is how to wash the blood off your hands after you’re done/ this is how you stop crying like a whore/ this is how you summon whores/ this is how you take from them what’s always been yours/ but what if those women feel strange or something?/ you mean to say that after all these elaborate lessons, you will become the kind of man that couldn’t even fuck a woman or two?
Those of Us Who Failed Beauty
Once I dated a boy who loved Dahlias
fought with me when I plucked pretty flowers
said he hated how I destroyed something
so beautiful pressed them in notebooks
heavy with poems graveyards of gardens
hidden in my cupboard for years wilting
as my hair grew into forests A florist
once told me he survives because of beauty
I fail it everyday in the mirror and on the street
I was whole in my mother’s eyes before I was queer
then I left for truth and all beauty shriveled
out of my body my hands always stop
midway before they reach for the tender branch
that droops with flowers pray when the green stem
snaps between my fingers the florist says
beauty only lasts a day and a few more hours
in freshwater I have dried flowers in my purse
We survive for we can grieve instead of perishing
with our beauty We survive
for we can fail beauty
How to Die if You Do Not Exist
Temple bells ring. Pigeons perched on pointed domes
scatter across the sky. I wait on the steps, outside.
A kid swings his legs on the parapet, stares at things
I'm trying to hide. The paint on my nails has not dried.
The setting sun looks orange in his eyes –
a ripe fruit that bursts into rays before it dies.
Chakkey ho kya? the kid blurts from his throne
overhead. The dirty vest slips off his frail shoulders.
He laughs like a man. Loud, condescending.
My face wilts around the piece of silver
on my nose. A half-moon gleams against the dusk.
Rage courses through my veins, a cheap venom.
I open my mouth to speak. He throws a stone at my feet.
I break like a stone idol hurled out of the temple. God
until it touches the ground, and then a faggot in a dress.
The blood looks dark red in his eyes –
a hidden river that comes out at nights.
A 16-year-old boy wakes up in my body – the dense,
stubborn taste of grief still fresh in his mouth.
How to die if you do not exist?
Rekha’s old melody floods his lips -
he crumples the note, and decides to live.
Amma's firozi sari clumsily draped around his waist,
identity a language he cannot translate.
The kid with mirror eyes has already run away.
This boy of sixteen and I, we weep together today.
Aditya Vikram (they/them) is a poet and spoken word artist from Lucknow, India. They spend their mornings working from a windowless room and evenings dancing on the terrace. Their writing is informed by loss, negotiations of filial love, and the freedoms of queerness. They won the Kommune National Story Slam last year, and their work is published in several magazines including Remington Review, Verse of Silence, Vagabond City Lit, and others.