Lantern Review | Issue 7.1

Preeti Kaur Rajpal

speak sinking liver

”Sinking Heart: A Punjabi Communication of Distress,“
as described in Social Science and Medicine.


i am five years old and michael jackson is on tv
grabbing his crotch

he tells me to call him veer-ji
that means older brother
in case i do not understand

he is not my brother
close the door
take off the lights

i am good, want to be good, always good
so i follow instruction

he lies across the bed expectant
grabs me under my arms
pulls me on top of him
my dress flapping up where it shouldn’t

my liver starts to beat fast

hug me he tells you
you are not a hugging type
so you move your arms


like a starfish lost in fresh water

his breath against your baby skin
do you feel that?

the door blasts open
your mother grabs you
by your fifth arm


the night divides herself into quarters
four arms of a broken starfish
over and over again

my mother asks
where? does it hurt?

i swim between language of livers or hearts
quadrant organs of which feeling tongue
tells her story

grandmothers say thrashed parts grow back
like the long arm of a clock

a daughter can lose a chunk of herself
grow back without saying

grow up to punch out
a wall

then dive into the hole
unfurl into seas and seas
of spindle arms


in the bathroom your mother
filters you a new liver
cleans you a new heart

she peels off the pink
flowers of your dress
checks your rainbow pony underwear
examines your skin and small folds
she wrings you like you are a sponge
full of dirty water

what were you doing?

nothing mummy

she repeats the name of god
between curses

hai rabba!
hai rabba!

son of an owl son of a dog son of a son!

hai rabba!
hai rabba!

never let anyone touch you she yells

in the fourth quarter of the night
chitr gupt, the watchman and the writer
one small god on each shoulder
reporting to the final scale
record every deed you did and did not do

where does it hurt?

here, unspeakable in my liver

Photo of Preeti Kaur Rajpal. Preeti Kaur Rajpal grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley. Her poems can be found in The Sikh Review, Tupelo Quarterly, qarrtsiluni, Blueshift, Jaggery Lit, and Spook Magazine. She tweets at @kitaab_e_preet.• Photo: Anna Min

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