Shana Bulhan

The artwork consists of two images side by side. They are horizontally flipped versions of the same picture, also edited with different colors, highlights, and shadows. The picture consists of two faces, one partly superimposed onto the other: a femme-presenting person with layered short hair (mostly chin-length with bangs), with striking eyelashes and eyebrows, also wearing a nose ring. To the side of the person's face, there is a tree-like structure (without leaves) branching out towards the edge of the picture. In the background, there are various swirls and hexagons set against stylized Lorem Ipsum text. The image on the left has a purple background; a mauve tree structure; and the two faces have blue and pink hair respectively. The face in front with blue hair has more dominant opacity, and the person's skin colour is brown. The face in back has ghostly white skin. The image on the right has a bright pink background; a dull green tree structure; and the two faces have green and pink hair respectively. The face in back with green hair has more dominant opacity, and the person's skin colour is ghostly white. The face in front has dull brown skin, but is quite faded.

Mad Queer’s Love Song

after Sylvia Plath1 

i will spend my entire life yearning for everything we couldn’t sublimate 

i cut my wrath into grief 

i don’t need a rose 
to waste a body, enter a land 

i remain ugly in the episteme of my body 

it’s mourning, and i want to kiss you in the stark.  
i seesaw your smile. didn’t i?  

how did we get to this place? 
these frenzies — i just want the suddenness of — 

(as if i could confess 
to meaty contagion  
smearing itself  
between my fingers) 

i hunker down in this mirror of self state 
dressed up to collapse, allure of i want to cut myself up like that too 
i want you (mirror) to clutch me there, that soon,  
& hate me clear as art 

it doesn’t make sense that we can’t  
kiss without bones gnashing — the accumulation of dread.  
it doesn’t make sense at all 

& could we shift this floating someday? — room stripped 
down — & then i won’t be cunt exposed like some seedy 
omission  & there’s nothing revelatory in the kiss of history  
& that too is a language beleaguered 

against an other 
box. which is to say 

will i ever? chalk boots  
through gender
will i ever? be 
red velvetine 

i trade one half of white 
for your faction. 

i measured it like 
some inexplicable cultural memory  
a newer place to dream of death 

again out of frame, meteoric 

but it’s just not a good century for a recluse 

i wanted to be loved into luminosity 
loved with the irony of history2 
effulgent and craved 

i wanted to be cunning & all i devilled  
was a sore nose, sore throat. 

& i’m so tired of teeth  

rotting then scrubbed again 
yellow seething into aftertaste. i wait 

and wait  

and wait. i slumber into 
the waiting. 

am i just a repeat of constance, beautiful at the expense of barbaric? 

i don’t know if i have made myself up 
stuck in this perpetual stage of queen jane3 
too fundamentally here to disavow 

i’m bad at groupcool groupthink  
i never whistle the world into dazzlement 

you blurred the moon for me 
catalyzed planet into desert 
& still i’m red 

for every mere mention — 

i meet you in the crux of the unforgivable  
safety was only ever a liberal coercion 

but you would never meet me — 
not in this grub of gold  
& shine. 

i made a window 
to let you mural me  
into winter 

so that in the house of your dreams  
we could disentangle ourselves,  
grocery desire cascading  
into opulent shelves.  
is this the everydayness?  

i whiten in the year of my room  
as you billow off — 
off, off.  

i dress like a pregnant shop auntie 
cheap cotton balakrishna 1527 at the hem 

i buoy and sway and arc into lumps of pink then brown 
spots under my flour bags of breasts 
off-white pushed to the edge of tan 

quiver4 pulsates at my worn wrists 
& what about the silvering dance of me?  
i want to write about you, or the creaking knees of me 

here’s the drop-ceiling of sky 
& black hairs eschewing contagion 
vegetable broth of cellulite teeming  
till i’m just a landslide of joints and cracked heels 
in free-fall 

in my head i’m doing the splits  
all over mahogany & mirrors 
i rear back my head & smile 
raise the fuck for the fount 

so i’ll scrub myself into femme,  
chop myself into butch.  
i’ll grab & punch my breasts  
into a photograph. 

i wanted to be god like you. 
& isn’t that romance? to slam my body 
against doom. as if i wasn’t dripping 
snot from my cunt. as if i wasn’t 
languishing on a toilet seat. as if i wasn’t 
splaying toothpaste on the mirror, 
burnished blood in the sink.
no, i’m all cellulite and cushion. 
i stretch into keratosis.  
we become into matter.  
detritus at dawn. 

i scorch the earth. i scorch the earth for you, 
love. isn’t that enough? 

i run into you. i run the wild into you, love. 
i fling the world into reverence. helix and jar. 
i could not have wilded you any less. 

but you can’t wield it. this wilding, this brimming. 

instead i make a crater to flounder 
i punch my souring pelvis into gratuity 
with every semi-squat i reach for evidence 
lying with pooled absence in my every tract 
so i come up & push again. to linger is an 
affront a prime malfeasance coiling itself 
around a name 

you give up on quarantine 
& marry the man  

pushing you into the ocean. 

& would you drown  
for that monument of erasure?  

if i could only paint you queer  
would you win in another continent?  

are you my crushed echo, a misgendered 
self? she walks down the road becomes a 
question mark split ragged & who’s even 
writing this aftermath 

suddenly you are no longer here. suddenly i 
want to rescue you into performance. 

i am so tired of abstraction. what is this damn 
box. no anchors anymore. clash of expected 
symmetry. you could never be ready for the 
muck of me.  

like every god your figure crashed into 
gold & what a cruise it was. what a 
fucking soirée. 

what must it feel like, hair still 
so silky, shimmering and gone. 

& maybe if i was lean like a dream, 
one black boot up against the brick. 
putrid with glitter, tracking orgasms 
like sand. & maybe if i could sway 
into every dank alley. & maybe if  
i sauntered my hips onto a stage,  
burlesque & brawn. & maybe  
if i was just girl enough 
for mystery.

no, baby, i’m the wrong one. 
what a delight it is. what a fucking cheap shot.
i’m achy without age.  
i carpal tunnel & fibroid  
my every move. every inconvenient creak 
& crack.  i lie in bed. i embellish my fat, 
strain into obscene.  

did i get lost in the invention of us? 

you only want me if i crumble into jars of leaving. 

& you fight for this solitude of 
near-death.  oh, how i’d wrest it from 
you — 

how i want to dive  
into every reptile coat 
of an attempt 

so i wander within like a bruise has taken hold 
of me like sugar like god 
lost in marginalia 

choose me. i’m begging you my bruise 
choose this shade of me 

1 Plath, Sylvia. “Mad Girl’s Love Song.” Mademoiselle, 1953. song-from-mademoiselle#

Quote from the following novel: Ondaatje, Michael. Anil’s Ghost. Vintage, 2000. p. 12.

3 c.f. song: Bob Dylan. “Queen Jane Approximately.” Highway 61 Revisited (Album).  

4 c.f. song: Lonas. “Quiver.” Quiver (EP). 
Shana is shown, from the shoulders up, before chrome shelving and colored cloths. Shana has light brown skin and inchlength straight black hair. Shana wears semitranslucent oxblood cateye glasses, and a dark grey or black crewneck shirt.

Shana Bulhan is currently attending the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where they are also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies. Previously, they studied Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College. They grew up mostly in India, but they have been living in Western Massachusetts for more than a decade now. They recently won an Academy of American Poets Prize selected by Bianca Stone. Their work has appeared in Meridians, smoke + mold, the Asian-American Literary Review, The Felt, Datableed, and other publications. For more information, please visit their website,