Two Poems

Poetry / Mia Ayumi Malhotra

The End When It Comes

for Isako, at last

Long before you’re gone, the losing begins.
And slow. And slow. You let go in inches,
starting with the shoulders, the ulna, wrist,
until each hand is rung with light. I never
imagined it this way. How the body goes
in stages. And the mind, leeched through
a crack at the base of the skull. No words
for this, though it’s the words that make it
bearable, the edge, blunted. Run, I will
run from this. The world caws brightly,
the crown of my head bursts with youth.
Yet this is how it ends. Who will bear this
dark shard in the eye, that the end when
it comes, dresses us down without mercy?
Small wonder, the racket you made at
the child’s approach. Ha—ha! To skeletal
teeth in head, bared. To flat hands, palms
clapped bone against bone, thwack thwack,
warding off demons as they gather like grim
congregants around your bed. This strange
anointing. This new spirit. How we fend.

Land’s End

Hedge grass, juniper. The cliff bares
its back teeth. Stone-faced, you slip
a black knot over your wrists, fuse

the ends with flame. How many times
have you stopped short, breath
jerked from the throat? To lose

yourself in the fall; to have lost it all
to need, affliction. Crank the heart’s
ugly lever, set the machine back

into motion. The bronze star points
north but never resolves. North-northwest,
east-northeast. May you find your way

by its burnished light. Here, take this
talisman of good faith. A handful of
broken rocks, bullets for the journey.

Mia Ayumi Malhotra is a Kundiman and VONA/Voices Fellow, and her poems have appeared in Greensboro Review, Mid-American Review, Drunken Boat, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, the Alice James Award, and the Kundiman Poetry Prize.