Volume 22, Number 3

As Real

Formica angles, nubbly kitchen floors
which, inexplicably, inspire us to ask
whether it is selfish or imperative to find
fulfillment in an unjust world. And that

it feels as real to be 19, gliding down a
warm hill into mountain air, as it does to
stew at ill-lit desks. As real to hug much-
younger siblings as it does to think of

faces that we aren’t born loving. Distant cousins
with discordant accents, boys who buy you beer
when they’re in town; and their mothers, girls
who split from families just so they could study;

women who were wed at just sixteen. Grievances
called workdays, one of which would be my own
life’s greatest tragedy; nights, huddled in a kitchen
chanting mantras. All so I could lie awake and ask,

what are we, really? Lizard eyes; thrifty souls;
caches of uncashed guilt; the sense that in the
witching hour we are whole again; that the
bags that blur our vision hold our worth.

—Vani Kannan