food is love,
and we live the way we eat.
I would know; I used to be a greedy, little rat,
always taking more than I actually wanted.
I was six when she forced a clove of garlic down my throat.
Eat it if you love me.
Don’t you love me?
Do you love me?
She was an alchemist;
she knew the art of turning love into arsenic.
I swallowed it then but my mouth
could never again form the words
I love you
without tasting the sting.
time is an illusion.
It slows down when you’re nearer the black hole.
I would know; I live with one.
In her space, I was six though I was nine in Earth time.
Ten when I was twelve,
Eleven when I was fourteen,
and still sweet sixteen at twenty-three.
I change so much in her orbit,
warped beyond recognition –
it is no wonder that I already feel a hundred years old.
But then again, I am so lucky to have someone
who points at the deepest end of the ocean
and calls it a puddle,
who tells me the erratic quakes in my hands
are only there because unlike the rest of me,
my heart is strong enough to beat against its prison.
My lungs are only on the verge of collapse because
I am learning to persist without air –
the sign of a survivor.
She who teaches me to sunbathe in a burning house,
who sees only the happy in my unhappiness,
who can rearrange my depression
to look like an all-you-can-eat buffet
in comparison to other people who have it so much worse.
That is love, right?
Seeing the best in people?
Being happy should be so easy
when you’re never allowed to feel anything else.
I may have an underdeveloped
sense of self-preservation,
but that’s okay…
it may be a hurricane,
but I should learn to enjoy the breeze, right?
Some people have it worse.
Stop overreacting now. Don’t cry.
Baby, you know I won’t literally starve you to death.
You just make me so angry sometimes.
In fact, no, you didn’t hear me right.
You’re just picking a fight,
making a monster out of me…
Say one more word and I will starve you to death!
These days, I have begun to perceive
the wind as the storm,
sunlight as wildfire,
love as a hand shoved down my throat,
love as the fist-shaped holes on the wall of my mind,
love as the barrel of gunpowder in my mouth,
and she is trigger-happy.
I’m sorry but I have a fucked up sense of normalcy.
I’m sorry that I say sorry a lot.
My friends think it’s annoying,
I know I am annoying
and I should just decide to stop it,
but I can’t decide on anything.
I mean, all of this is my fault, right?
If I wanted to be happy,
I should just make up my mind to be happy.
Never mind that I can’t tell my one thought from the other,
can’t know the difference between a memory and a nightmare,
can’t decide between pizza and pasta
without a flood rising in my windpipe.
Never mind that I’ve lost track of time so many times
that I obsessively plan every second of my day.
I still hear her voice in the ticking of my clock,
but if no one else can hear it,
I must be fucking crazy to insist it makes a sound.
Maybe it’s just me, but maybe I was never me.
I am nothing if not her design.
She is my historian, my architect.
I have written too many graveyard poems in her image,
but I still can’t put her voice down to rest.
If it takes over 20 days to form a habit,
what about 20 years?
I am addicted to naming my demons after her,
but can you blame the boy who cries wolf
if he has begun seeing a wolf in his own shadow?
I guess I will always be a greedy, little rat,
because I wanted none of her,
but have taken in all of her.
Enbah Nilah is a Malaysian poet-in-progress who won the CEX Poetry Slam in Singapore, and has performed in Slamokrasi, Poetically Correct, If Walls Could Talk, and literary symposium. She recently got published in the Dirty Thirty Anthology (Australia), but is best-known for her riotous performances in dormitory bathrooms.