poems from Ashni Mathuria (content warning: self harm, sharp objects)

ZOYA Professional Lacquer in Bevin
By Ashni Mathuria

There is a fingernail on my
right hand that is jagged
and sharp. An edge has cleaved
to a point. I woke from a nightmare to
find myself rubbing the barb
with my thumb, admiring
it by touch. I have been meaning
to cut my nails. I have been meaning

to do so many things.
I rub sleep from my eyes and just
miss an inadvertent blinding — it is dangerous
now. Yesterday I daydreamed a pretty girl
would paint my nails pastel green.
I begin to think it a possibility again:
draping the effortless elegance
of femininity over me like a shawl,
blurring beauty into my skin with my bare

I’ll file this nail down, file
the rest of them too. Wing my eyes,
straighten my hair, wax my legs,
color my lips.

But while writing this poem I’ve already
pinched off the edge the rest of the way.
And now I’ve rubbed it smooth —
now the pad of my thumb kneads
the rounded tip,
burnishes away the last remnant,
feels its loss.

It’s winter and I’m thinking
By Ashni Mathuria

about how the British authors of my childhood used
queer to mean curious. Now nearing twenty I
am queer and never
curious, only banal
and resigned, turning my face down as I shuffle
across streets.
The details blur
from my perception: cars ambling
to a halt before the light, the chatter of schoolgirls
with tan coats and lattes, the cool
wind that stings my eyes, brings with it
the scent of fresh pita. In this moment I slip easily from myself.
How kind it is
that I may unhook at my whim. How curing
to be faceless behind a mask. How freeing to pass
through a world black
save for the crosswalk sign and the edge of the curb.
As I step up I see a bud
of green in a sidewalk crack
poking through the gray sludge of days-old
snow. It is turning
to March; the birds begin to call.
Perhaps —
perhaps I am curious after all —
perhaps I begin —
to wonder

Winter Anhedonia
(UPMC Western Psychiatric Institute, Discharge Summary)

By Ashni Mathuria

5pm sky,
I waft from locked doors
into the blue,
turn up one heel after
another. My mother
calls; I press decline.
The cold inside me
I feed it my skin,
my bones.
Still it begs, batting at my tendons
like a cat. In the confines
of freedom, the fondness of
desolation, the cold curls up purring
in my chest.
My father calls;
I press decline.
I am still thinking
about the way it presses to my forehead
like a kiss, chewing my skull from the
inside. It cauterizes my breath —
they tell me to count to ten,
five things I can see,
breathe in a square —
I slip into collapse.
Finally I feel the first flake
of snow on my forehead:
muted, worn, warm.