“Elegy for 2019” by Umang Kalra

Black and white illustration of two people hugging, colorful flowers grow in front

Elegy for 2019

sometimes a year is a person & sometimes it is the sound of their voice & every
tragedy they called a mistake. sometimes a year is the smell of sex on poppers &
texting your best friend this memory is a gift for my future self & failing to make
any better ones. sometimes the best memory is being broken & pulling yourself
together anyway. the year before the sky healed, the year before I first heard a
phoebe bridgers song or read kropotkin or loved you. surprise surprise, this poem
is for you, they’re all for you & i tell you this every night half asleep, everything
is for you until one of us grows out of this like a plant cracking a pot into two, who
will tell the FBI guy that love can break open sometimes? who will tell us? who will
scribble out the promises we make at 2 am, broad daylight for you, my love? who will
tell me it’s broad daylight for you? who will tell me the sun is watching? who will
watch me? i can feel myself ageing like a forgotten song, frozen in time and unchanging
but older, somehow, like last night’s make up, like a slipped-on dream. sometimes a year
is a bad memory. sometimes it is fear distilled into a laptop screen, glaring silver at me
sobbing like a child. sometimes it slices into you like a knife, nothing metaphorical about
its sordid pain, sometimes it is like a bad poem. like this. like this like this like this.
sometimes it happens anyway. sometimes you are young enough to forget & sometimes
you are 21 and you will remember it forever. sometimes the year forgets you & you are
grateful, sometimes you wish it didn’t, sometimes you wish you could steal all of its
happy memories & cross out the rest. the sex on poppers, alone. the moon, alone. the
end of the world, alone, alive, awake, alive, alive, alive. sometimes a year tries to kill you,
& asks you why you let it.

            sometimes it sinks into everything after! sometimes it is more alive than you! sometimes
            it reminds you how to suck your fingers, how to suck the air out of a cigarette, how to suck
            the life out of your new lover. sometimes you let it. i want to count every poem in which
            i lied to the world about how good it felt to be slowly tortured, i want to scratch the fucking
            romanticism out of the sky, grab the lump in my throat & pull it out & put it in my hand & say
            pay attention to this & take the poppers & run. this is a poem about poppers. this is an elegy
            for the year i spent dancing, head spinning, breath heaving, eyes shining so loudly that anybody
            could tell it was all i ever wanted. i wish all i remembered was the dancing. i wish i had been
            dancing with you instead. did you forget? did you forget this poem is for you? is it all
            a bit uncomfortable? do you know who you are? are you tired of me daring you to love me
            everyday? are you going to love me anyway? are you going to fuck me anyway? do you
            understand why all this still seeps out of my pores? do you remember 2019? i remember
            the hell of it, the sickness, the hurt, the bleeding & you: shining fixture in the background
            of everything that tried to kill me, quiet cloud of silver in the margins of the street. i am going
            to rebuild a new world & call it heaven, call it joy, call it ours, it will be full of all of our waiting.

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Umang Kalra is a queer Indian writer. They are the author of Unsoftened (Ghost City Press, 2020) and Minimalist Sweetheart (-algia, 2021). They are a two time Best of the Net finalist and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Their work has appeared in Longleaf Review, Icarus, The Shallow Ends, and elsewhere. Their website is umangkalra.carrd.co.

Margarida Riggio is a Spanish illustrator with experience in designing posters, books, portraits and other commissioned work. You can see her work on TumblrInstagram.