Awakenings by Veena Kumar


Let’s take our shirts off, she said.
We were on the roof of the clubhouse
at 5:30am, having stayed up all night.
No one will see. And if they do, who cares?

We had been through the biology textbook
in her bedroom: diagrams of hollow human forms
filled with organs like objects. I laughed nervously,
tiny breasts snug in white cotton barely a bra.

She whipped off her t-shirt with her long arms
then wrapped them around her knees.

She was the tallest girl in the class and I was
the shortest. With a curly-haired friend we formed
a mismatched trio of secretly mad intellectuals.
We had been forced to write a winter poem together
in English class, and knew we were more alike than seemed.

On my first visit to her house, her mom opened the door pantless
with a toddler hanging on her underwear. I knew then that I had
something to learn here, though I wasn’t sure exactly what.
(Much later, she will be the first to talk openly about making out
and making love. She will say her uncle asked, what are you waiting for?)

Just do it, oh my god, she says, and I do.
We sit on the roof watching the sun rise over
the swimming pool. A gentle wind blows
across my collarbone, the skin stretched across
my ribs, the fine hairs on my arms
and back, and I feel a kind of ecstasy.

Look, she says, someone’s coming!
And my heart leaps across the horizon.


Veena Kumar lost herself then found herself in Toronto. Now she writes poetry, teaches math and runs an expressive writing club at her school in Bangalore. She has moved around a lot in her life, but always manages to find (or found) writing groups wherever she is to make her feel complete.

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