Raena Shirali

New Year as an Extremophile

-in 2013, a microbial ecosystem was found buried half a mile under the ice in Antarctica, in conditions similar to those of the subglacial lakes on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The microbes metabolize without oxygen or sunlight, often utilizing decaying microbes from within their own environment.

No longer living in any kind of garden—no chipping benches, no dusty petals or body

heat, no respite, no respite—I make for the bottom. Pellucid ice above seems a lunar

dome. I am inside—underneath—this roving planet.

Fuck the so-called return to nature: its verdancy, its promise

that things will continue to grow. I know the nidus of apathy & settle

into steadily-flowing frost like microbe onto moon. On other continents, warmth

rises, swelters: a girl dances in flashing lights on the last day of the year, her short dress flaring

up. Around me, black water swirls, forces things to sink.

Dark mineral, local mineral, I’m here to burrow, follow the borehole to lake’s

end. Feeding off those that are most like me, I become another link

to remote moons—soar, pitch, shimmer. What more can I do? Yes, the garden was full

of miasmic bloom, but what is there to miss of a distant sun? Here, I take what I need

from unknowable depth easily, as things do in the dark. I find the newest opacity on record

& plunge further into the ice stream—

Holi: Equinox Approaches

-“Young woman attacked on bamboo platform in front of entire village.” The Independent, January 24, 2014

Palash, flame of the forest, unfurls
against morning: a signal as it begins.
If only to forget the women

we won’t speak of, we toss
powder colored with spring crops
& watch our bodies eviscerate
the concentrated tone. If only to celebrate,

we look, for a day, past
the fire our kin have lit—blaze that chases
young women into alleys, or out

of this nation. If only to watch these bodies—only
ours. The town squares, the raised platforms
might have never been—

We could let the full moon & delicacies
fill us. We could trade
turmeric for bits of leaves, fungible entities
ground in marvelous clay pots bursting
with saturates—

& not think of her hair:
Stygian, oiled, gripped or       ripped
by a thirteen-year-old boy. & then
by many boys as young as any of our sons.

If only blue hibiscus & not the hue
of her skin: color she turned at heat-sick

dawn. If only beetroot to decorate,
to complement the rare
green fleck of her eyes. The amla fruit pigment
flings out from my palms.

If only I could tuck a jacaranda
flower behind her ear, place dried tea leaves
in her hands, ask that she color her flesh

back again. I hold the girl’s absence
as though I could see her

nails stained red. I hear a woman, chasing
her sister, say, Run all you want, I’ll catch you,
hear her sister shriek, hear the crowd—
that mass—shriek.

Someone hurls the color of flames
up, like a call to god.

A man approaches me, a blurred eddy
of tones. He mesmerizes. He wields
a fist full of saffron dye.

Raena ShiraliRaena 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 the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, as well as a 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. She currently serves as the Reviews Editor for The Journal.