Two Poems

By Tara Jayakar


Palinode: Black Smoke

On the train
Over Williamsburg Bridge
I consider
telling my father
I can’t love you
how you think
I should love you
& there’s fresh

black smoke floating
over the river
wisps for days
for days in the sky, wisps
without a source
but I know
black smoke
comes from history
burning down
& food
offered up, holy
so we can see away another
disappointing dad
he must be so tired
after floating around for
almost a year, a lunar
year that is a full
lunar year my
mother’s father has been
wandering around
& every morning I say
good morning Thatha, I love
you and I miss you
so No, it’s not a question of can’t

the first time
I heard WHAM!’s
Last Christmas, sixteen Christmases ago
I thought of my dad
& my mom
& the hours, waiting
for him to be done
at his other Christmas
his other dog
& black smoke
& how those tiny cilia just usher
us along &
how it’s all so impossible
how all senses say that this place—
Manhattan, this Earth—
one second away
from devastation
at all times
it shouldn’t exist & here it is—
venting black smoke & still
here I am pouring my blood into it
& here we are
setting so much on fire
with a tossing aside
of something else we all three of us
my father my thatha my self
burned to the butt
so witnessing this black smoke
while George Michael sings
This year,
to save me from tears,
hear me when I say
I cried for my decision
not to love my father
to say no,
thank you, to this love
as it’s been given
& how it felt
it feels
like how stone fruit feels
like how upturned palms at rest feel holy
& how WHAM!’s
needing to do and to be better
feels lonesome & hurt
but holy
but holy
but holy
just the same.


The morning after Ariel tries cocaine for the first time, she vomits

and wonders if it’s always like this. The morning after, she wakes with all her body parts
in the tub, soaking. Everything is stained gray—the water, her jeans, her panties—

and she frantically scrubs them, the tub, by hand. After Ariel tries cocaine for the first time,
she huddles in her bed’s slow cotton, praying for death and a day when everything smells

like it should. In the morning, it’s 4pm, Ariel wonders if she will ever stop being
a girl. She wonders if she will ever call herself by her name. She wonders how it’s possible

that everything can smell like stale cigarettes, hours after she marched home seeing double and listening to DAMN. The morning after trying cocaine for the first time, Ariel

can’t stop shaking. She remembers how her friends kept filling her wine and told her
she didn’t have 
to do anything she didn’t want to do, and their tongues, all pink and

whole against the slices of their student IDs, how beautiful the smoke was, moving on its own
current through the air into her eyes and lashes and lungs. The morning after she pulled

lines of cocaine, she he considers texting her mother but remembers first, that phones don’t work in the ocean, and 2)

that her mother is dead. She vomits
                                                                 clouds, then blood. She feels                                                                                                                                                                    ashamed. She wonders
if it’s always like this.

In the evening after Ariel tries cocaine for the first time, she gets a text from a friend
if she has any weed on hand. Ariel heaves, and vomits air, packs a box.

She wanted to kiss her, this girl, whose face was wet with snow, who was
achingly beautiful in 
the sodium night, but that kiss couldn’t belong to a body she so badly wanted

to abandon. Ariel boils salt water for noodles, and remembers the first girl she had ever
wanted. Her name rhymed with the sound of snow, and their hair tangled together

in the current, and her salt tasted different than the ocean. She thinks about how she has been dry
all day—her lips, her face, her still unfamiliar cunt. Everything smells like ash and

it’s making her sick. She considers texting her father but phones don’t work in the ocean. She is sick
with the phantom smell of stale cigarettes and rivers of trash. She hunts for this smell, sniffs

every body part she has, and prays that it is not, now, simply who she is, imbued with smoke,
and with every inhalation she remembers her father, the only time he saw her new body,

his eyes, their panic, so close to her own panic now that they could kiss, morph into one kind
of pain. She had always been herself, but this new distance—air and not air—

had broken something open that could not be bargained back. He was not a man
to speak, her father, but when he sank back into the tide the ocean moaned the keening moan

of a loss beyond death. Ariel looks out at the slush, wonders to what place this body
would return, and if that place, too, would reek of smoke and shake all the time.

Eventually, Ariel vomits bile the color of sage and even this is miraculous, the ease of its
fountain, its filling her 
basin and she thinks what have I done to my body, what have I done.



Tara Jayakar is the Founding Editor/Bookmaker at Raptor Editing and an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She loves breakfast, bears, and ice cream, is a cutie, and is based in Brooklyn.