Thirty-Three Vertebrae


Aanya Bahl

Seven cervical vertebrae.
A head standing tall,
Piercing eyes slicing open a thick cloud of calamity. 
A light shines bright in your pupils 
Where a darkness should be; 
A black hole veers closer and closer. 
Magnetism works its charm, 
North and south meet, 
And I fall.

Twelve thoracic vertebrae.
A sloping slide, 
Hearts playing hopscotch 
Skipping beats in patternless rhythms  
Against a trembling ribcage.
The descent burns, 
Friction between smooth skin and cheap plastic. 
The back of my thighs chafe,
A prickling burn, 
Which I ignore.

Five lumbar vertebrae.
The descent disintegrates; 
The end of exhilaration is anticlimactic. 
With one foot on a shaky ground 
I pine for the slope. 
The weight in my chest says otherwise;
Hush, I tell it. 
A mountain has been conquered, 
So why do I long for the summit?
My hand crawls up your back,
An electrical signal 
Snaking its way up your torso. 
But alas, 
The action potential does not reverse; 
The weight has not been lifted.

Five sacral vertebrae.
A fusion of marred conversations, 
Hands grabbing at clenched hips, 
Nails leaving trails in supple skin 
Sinking with the burden of disappointment 
Under the weight of falsities and fallacies. 
Lies and despair come unclothed, 
Undulating apologies that mask pleas of desperation
As a naked narcissism. 
Fictions expose themselves.

Four coccygeal vertebrae. 
A tailbone of pooling anguish, 
Convenience that trumps endeavour 
A rudimentary laziness caging wings of aspiration. 
Decelerating momentum: 
A vestigial reminder 
Of a past devotion.

Thirty-three vertebrae 
Weave a story:
A tapestry of rapture
Deteriorating into threads of patheticism.

Thirty-three vertebrae, 
But no spine.

Illustrations by Iris Deng

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