by Hannah Malik

We follow the course of each other's arching backbones, braced in bitter winter
as my barren lungs and your tallow-hearted inhibitions touch for a moment
and we electrify.
You said there's a glowing sensation, a brain tumor inside your head that
fills your heart every time you
try and get away from here and see the world.
We both can see- we can see, can't we?- still there is definition
in the glass pieces from the bottles smashed in the bay waves against the jetty
you told me was safe.
I can't stand anything- that's why I sit with a posture to challenge the night.
You pass fingers across fingers cold, over hipbones in
yellow morning light, dappled in the tree shade and
tempered through frosted glass.
They pass:
one, two, three, four, five
and press down skin before drawing back to the chest in a gasp of sheer-
what is the word, now?
Your je ne sais quoi is showing. It's tangible when you reflect like that.
When you smile your sad smile and sing your sad tunes through stormy eyes
I can tell those frown marks between the wrinkles in the smile.
Did you know that I attempted suicide yesterday?
No, but I know your heart still beats, you reply,
but the word you say is shush.
And now you'll let the water get tepid, let it overflow, let it drown us.
I can't wait to see something more than Indian ink on hungry flesh,
but cutting isn't right.
Lion-bellied bathtubs are just cliché, but we've been sitting in this one anyway,
singing the grand old tunes before the ship goes down.
Stay, please, I'll patch you up.
We'll use our hair to make herringbone stitches up
each other's sides and through each other's ribs, and spilling onto the linoleum
with an explosion of vanilla and red dye #40.

University & College Poetry Prizes Page