Animals: Three Poems by Jessica Nirvana Ram

my heart is a slippery fish

fillet it / cut the cheeks out / & see / they’ll be tender / keep the blade close / to bone / clavicle to tail fin / pull clean through flesh / separate into slabs / to be swallowed / seasoned / skewered / skin crisped in skillet / body flaky & boneless / marinate the head & skeleton / for bouillabaisse / a thick stock / pick your teeth clean / with pin bones / see how many pieces / this heart is capable of / becoming / dismembered devotee / I promise / there is no waste here / if you catch me / you can use it all / every last scrap

Jellyfish Girl

Last night I woke up part jellyfish
tentacles wide & transparent,
head bulbous like a moon jelly.

I told you not to touch me. Swam
away from our bed until I was sea deep
in myself, floating among the blooms
of jellyfish watching them brush up
against each other, no harm no screams,
just soft touch, comfortable sparks.

I wondered if I’d ruined myself
by becoming this way, if your eyes
would always be rimmed with fear
& trepidation, with some need to trap me
in a bathtub or a tank, to keep me
at arms length—

did I, somewhere along the way,
become something pretty for you
to look at & never touch? When did you
stop trusting me? How exactly does a boy
love a jellyfish & how does a jellyfish
love a boy?

We both know you’ve never
been very good at swimming,
you never really liked the ocean either
& I cannot live in your cupped palms.
So tell me, my love, where do we go
from here?

When I am in Sixth Grade a Boy Calls Me Octopus Hair

The boy is small & faces me with sharpened teeth.
I could never name the look in his eyes but I could always

smell the bloodlust & that day, he spewed incantation
against the sea monster living on my head & this body

of mine awoke, tentacles sprouting from skin darting out
in defense of this small girl’s self. I watched as newfound limbs

reached out to suffocate him, pressing into the small boy’s flesh
until it puckered with suction cup red rings, until he screamed

& hissed & threatened me with those shark teeth of his, thrashing
about in my grip. I bare my own beak, burst through his paper

flesh, see my fury reflected in his fear soaked irises as he realizes
he is not the predator here. Maybe I should have warned him,

should have let him know that my kind happily devours his kind,
that even though I specialize in camouflage, or could easily offer up

a spare limb & make my escape, I am fucking tired of disappearing
when provoked, tired of folding into this small body, tired of sacrificing

pieces of myself as if to say all of me
isn’t worth fighting for.

About Jessica Nirvana Ram

Photographic portrait of Jessica Nirvana Ram

Jessica Nirvana Ram is an Indo-Guyanese MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. She is equal parts poet and essayist, while occasionally moonlighting as a fiction writer. Her work appears in Barrelhouse, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Memoir Mixtapes, and HAD with work forthcoming in The Hellebore Press. Jessica also recently attended the 2021 Tin House Summer Workshop. You can find her tweets about teaching, writing, and all other life things @jessnirvanapoet.