Shalini Rana

Aubade in a Southern College Town

In this town I wake up
to the guy downstairs roaring profanities
in a volume that tears through 
the cheap walls, wake up harder 
at breakfast when someone’s subwoofer 
blasts a mild form of death in my chest. 

My crusty eyes adjust to window-light, gaze at the blue atlas cedar
alone in a lawn & I notice its silverblue arm extended, beckoning me,
so I leave my four walls, press an ear against the undulating mouth
in its bark: listen to how I’ve been made specimen on this land, learned 
to tolerate drought. Goddamn at least they know to give me space. 

What returns you to a place like this? What returns you to places 
where your name twists & wilts on withered white tongues, where 
you’ve read exotic too many times & just this morning on the back 
of an off-brand sriracha bottle. Where Shalini turns to Suzie
translates to I don’t give a damn about you, but your food is nice. 

In a town like this, my name 
can no longer mean modest so I imagine 
undressing myself, expressing myself 
like the cedar’s atlas of branches,
wish a subwoofer could teach me 
where in this voice to put more bass.

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Shalini Rana is a poet from Virginia and an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation. In 2021 she was awarded the James T. Whitehead Award for Poetry, judged by Kayleb Rae Candrilli. She is also the social media editor for The Arkansas International. Her work appears or is forthcoming in wildness, Line Rider Press, Feels Blind Literary, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can find her at