Three Prose Poems by Shivani Mehta
the invisible girl can be anything she wants when she doesn’t want to be invisible
A snow leopard, a tree, an owl. Her favorite is any winged creature. Bats, dragonflies.
The invisible girl senses her mother’s grief at the invisible girl’s impermanence. She sees it in the unrelenting length of her mother’s hair, her skirt’s worn hem. But the invisible girl cannot help herself. She longs to be tangible, to know where she ends and the rest of the world begins. She envies the concrete bodies of other girls, their silhouettes, the way light must travel around instead of through them.
The invisible girl wasn’t always invisible. When she was born the invisible girl was merely translucent, as if she were the daughter of a ghost or thin fog. Her favorite places in the house – doorways, open windows. The invisible girl feels a kinship with the wind. Sometimes she pretends that the wind is a girl named Effie. Now Effie, the invisible girl likes to say, I’ll hold this end of the curtain, you twirl it around like a scarf.
the invisible girl and the curiosity of strangers
The invisible girl arrives home from school to find her bedroom turned into a museum, her mother selling tickets at the door. Nine dollars. Inside, a crowd of people leafs through brochures, congregates near the foot of the invisible girl’s bed. They tug at the sheets, stroke the lace frills on her pillow. Even the alarm clock on the invisible girl’s nightstand is passed around and inspected, the knob on its back turned. Across the room people rifle through the invisible girl’s chest of drawers. A woman in a fur coat scans the titles of books on a shelf: The Self According to Rene Descartes; The Man Who Tried To Weigh his Soul; Horticulture: a beginner’s guide (7 th edition). In the invisible girl’s bathroom, a man lifts the lid on the toilet to peer inside. His wife fondles a bar of soap in the shower. Intriguing, she says, raising her camera. Suddenly, the invisible girl is aware of a tingling sensation. She understands that this is the closest she’ll ever come to being seen. She wonders if her insides look like the pages of her notebooks, which are pinned open above her desk like butterflies in a display case.
Everything I know about mourning, I learned from my father. A professional mourner like his father before him, he knew thirty-three different ways of appearing desolate. Most people only know four. We lived above the mortuary. The corpses never bothered me, they were easy to get along with and didn’t mind the dark. We went to funerals every day, my father was the best mourner. Sometimes he even told jokes, a man walks into a morgue and starts shooting, when he leaves everyone’s still dead. One of the great benefits of our work – we never had to worry about food. It was always catered, there was usually baked brie, paté on toast points, two different kinds of champagne. My father said his favorite part of a funeral was the women. They always smiled at him as they walked by in their black silk dresses, made him think of sailboats on a summer night gliding on the water.
Shivani Mehta was born in Mumbai and raised in Singapore. Her first book, Useful Information for the Soon-to- be Beheaded, is out from Press 53 and her work has appeared in numerous journals. A recovering attorney, Shivani lives near Los Angeles with her 5 year old twins, two cats, a husband, and several fish.