When I smoke,
I feel it in my thighs.
When it rains, my fingertips shrivel,
and when I walk along a beach’s shoreline,
my shoulders burn
to turn themselves inside out;
wriggle ………….through flesh,
ripe for fresh air.
…….My fingers are cold goldfish
nobody won at a summer fair.
They feel heavier …….than a sledgehammer,
than a deity— ………….and you—
when you smoke,
my appendix knocks against my abdomen,
keen to finish his joke.
He thinks I’m a slice of toast.
He brings butter, he brings honey
to the bedroom, looks up at me
through his eyelashes,
the shape of his left iris asking a question.
He wants to coat me, smother me,
does this honey know me?
I swelter in its shroud and stand,
naked and pink, in the middle of the room.
My skin—taut, unyielding—wants
to be stripped away like lurid satsuma peel.
The threads of my hair stick
to the nape of my neck, form rings
around my throat. They smell
overwhelmingly sour, are dark as molasses.
My universe is viscous. It sticks to my teeth
like a piece of toast buttered with tar.
Ava Patel studied at the University of Reading and was awarded a first-class MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She has published poems in webzines (Runcible Spoon, London Grip, Ink, Sweat and Tears) and magazines (South Bank Poetry, Orbis, South, Dream Catcher). Her debut pamphlet Dusk in Bloom has recently been published by Prolebooks and she runs an Instagram poetry page: @ava_poetics.