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Original Art by Shana Bulhan

Shana Bulhan

911 operators ask too many questions     everything reds to cacophony

the yellow and green of a cushion stained     fall leaves crevicing like failure


so i become an accomplice     strangling impertinent     upon an annulled milieu     


i cultivate impairment     temper to traumatize     abstract the extreme     

surpass the politics     of visceral horror [1]


what is it like to feel so sure of oneself?     


someday there will be     an ultraviolet discovery     of our bloodied floor     5 years 

in the cracks    beads, crumbs, detritus     recalcitrant shoes     in the living room     


mostly     a reiteration     a removal of sharps

where i reveal     my propensity     to accommodate consensus [2]

i play the form     forget its name     i am an autonomous agent [3]


i catapult back to nineteen     exuberant and earnest 

i crazy my way through classrooms     a commodity of fundamentals     


classy at fourteen     ribbons around our ears     you are my one and only 

glass of sweet red wine


we call this a machine     a precarious profitability of lack [4] 


i frenzy my way into your words     fashion a curriculum of subjectivity     


there is never     enough time


my knees ache    i live this excuse     between righteous and dispensable     

i come up against the democracy     of my affective attachments [5] 


i whip myself apart     as if to finally understand     


dispense of me     dispense of me, again


i commodify my imaginary     debilitate and elucidate     strategically incapacitate [6]     

become     under a dialectic     of surveillance     


i possess value       i concede     demand compensation for mobility     

separate me, no simultaneity     i sanctify. i magnify     



so: racialize. disable. demur. demand.     reinstate the humanist subject [7]

deny intercorporeal permeability [8]


i will always exceed     historiographical intervention [9]


i form you both     as periphery to my utterance     and core of my embodiment [10]


i unlearn my incoherent attempts     to finally get it right     


you make me proliferate     an asymmetry     of choice and chance     

you make me empathize     with a system exposed [11]


and i love you like collapse     i can’t calculate the excess of it     

i just want to be a girl     incapacitated for hours     tap dancing to saturn’s rings    
teach me, teach me     this ringing gold     we call this a solar system          


i hospitalize it     this transnational tremble     


i am more complicated than     hyperseparated [12]    


i am critiquing     the teleology of social theory [13]


so it’s i love you all over     the philosophy of friendship scrawled     on preteen desks  

crayon slides     among crayon swings     it’s amazing what you can fit     

into fifteen minutes       


i learn to call them bleachers     these steps where i snub you 

buried in my books     as we succumb to brochures 


do you whirl through delhi now?     are you the crust     underneath my tongue?     


everything is so orange     and missionary now 

the cat slinking     and cruelly appraised  


i line my eyes in papaya     save me all at once     as i scalp and scrape     

manufactured flakes   


i am searching for something more     than blue blood       



the boys lay traps for each other     i materialize the medicine of capital     

labour-power, not labour [14]     i skip to the end     and you forgive me anyway  


i need to citizen my longing     into expropriation


this isn’t swings up     in the painted garden     no assimilation motif     of chopsticks

in chandigarh     no more running up     gilded stairs     


the boy is drunk     pimpling beside me in the black car     

just another version     of the boy who takes psychiatric notes     and mimics sodomy     

like flinging glass     the veil before the stage     


all these boys inside of me     i won’t touch you     if it’s all i can be

the weapon inside



i shiver by the pond     i am still     that bubble college girl


i anticipate illumination [15]     caffeinated nights     mercurial, uncontainable    

no original unity [16]     borne of emotion rather than affect


i am still eighteen     for ramen noodles     and shared violations     

where we laugh     in laptop domesticity     


am i creaking at the joints?     am i enough of flesh?


i’m calling this a love song     a mimicking pompadour     a stilting, a wedding     


in this room full of fruit peelings     i can slip my whole fist inside     

your skinny white girl cave     


but it’s april, and we’re leaving      so i watch you fold demure colours     

in translucent plastic bins      i anonymously, halfheartedly     disguise myself 


in movement     presuppose ability     as i puddle apart     in shared elevators     

this counterpublic     of aesthetics    


i didn’t know any more     than hauling boxes     haphazard     through basements 

of brown paper     i didn’t know any more     than to fuck you and leave


call it a reminiscence     but i couldn’t be myself     i had to ameliorate     

the viability of bodies [17]     make you stronger     a fillingness more sublime      

somewhere queer     and imperceptible [18]


i sink i sink i sink     i swallow the not-yet-here [19]

i can’t be a city     for you to roam




[1]   Hemmings, Clare. Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory. Duke University Press, 2011. pg 197.

[2]   Gudavarthy, Ajay. “Brahmanism, Liberalism and the Postcolonial Theory.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 51, no. 24, June 2015, pp. 7–8. 

[3]   Erevelles, Nirmala. Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative Body Politic. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. p 176.

[4]   Bulhan, Shana. “The Precarious Profitability of ‘Lack’: Racialized Disability under Capitalism.”  Unpublished manuscript. 2018.

[5]   Hemmings 195.

[6]   Erevelles 25-26.

[7]   Erevelles 176.

[8]   Erevelles 42.

[9]   Sinha, Mrinalini. Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire. Duke University Press, 2006. p 16.

[10]   See Sinha’s analysis of core/periphery

[11]   Bulhan, Shana. “Women’s Rights in Modern Indian History.” Unpublished manuscript. 2010.

[12]   Gudavarthy 17.

[13]   Hemmings 7.

[14]   Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “From Haverstock Hill Flat to U.S. Classroom, What’s Left of Theory?” What’s Left of Theory?: New Work on the Politics of Literary Theory, edited by Judith Butler et al., Routledge, 2000, pp 1–39.

[15]   Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. NYU Press, 2009. p 3.

[16]   Crawford, Lucas Cassidy. “Transgender without Organs? Mobilizing a Geo-Affective Theory of Gender Modification.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 3/4, 2008, pp. 127–43.

[17]   Stryker, Susan. “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, June 1994. p 249.

[18]   See Crawford’s concept of “imperceptibility”

[19] Muñoz 1.

Shana Bulhan is studying Poetry in the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. They are also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies. Previously, they studied Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College. They grew up mostly in India, but they have been living in Western Massachusetts for 11 years now. Their work has previously appeared in the Asian-American Literary Review, Reservoir Lit, The Felt, Datableed, and other publications. For more, visit their website at

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