The Kingdom Before

by Shana Bulhan Haydock

for every time I say “it’s okay”
a million frozen blueberries
tap dance themselves to death.

you won’t know the wrench
in my lipstick as I feign
comprehension of these
mismatched histories,
the blood from the lightbulb
freezing me over to sordid shame.

when he choked me, it wasn’t the way
you did with gold become my new anthem
as our conniving smiles promised that
in the land of postcolonial nightmares
we would shatter before twin-dolls
could restrain this melody

it was obscured war when he choked me
his fingers knew too well the point
where porn meets film meets fact
meets emptiness.

I realized his new haircut
meant it was over.

maybe I wanted a boy toy
to use while you matched my metaphors
with brave new wit. maybe puns battled
over my still-starry eyes and your
weeping frame as I wished for my kurta
to entangle in some ghost-whirl
the words the womb meant us to say
as I left you tear-drunk in the office
building assigned for breakups.

what I didn’t tell him was that sex
was never love with him. heartbeats and
shudders only intensified my panic
over wanting your scarves to wind
around me once more

I laid myself as a possibility
against your absent anchors
I would let you walk these sodden
ships of tea bags again and again and again

I used him as boys do come
each sloppy kiss a faint echo of
sparkling eyes I loved.

what bigger blasphemy than to disown context?
when you said you loved me, when I said I loved him
embarrassment became another mould stilled
to prattling cookie quandary. truly, it was
utopia that trapped us in the gut

for every time I say “it’s okay”
sugar kittens scream as poised mirrors
ripped with unexpected momentum
theory bleats paayal with regular frenzy
as home is once more that laughing error

“I love you too” is just dried glue and wax
meaningful only for the mount and
dreadful in the crash.

Shana Bulhan Haydock is a young, South Asian, trans*/non-binary and queer writer, artist and activist. They currently reside in Massachusetts, USA, though they grew up mostly in India. They work with The Freedom Center, a radical mental health collective that hopes to provide sanctuary for psychiatric survivors. Shana’s work has appeared or will appear in such publications as Reveries & Rage, Window Cat Press, The Outrider Review, (parenthetical) zine, aaduna literary magazine, and the Everyday Abolition project. You may also find more information on Shana’s personal website: