Two Poems

by Ashley Dun

Illustration by Claire Schlaikjer

published October 27, 2017

content warning: body horror, sexual violence

Princess Pāramitā 
I thought I told you to stop coming here.
You make me sick, girl.
Pali prayers dribble off your lips
like nursery rhymes.
You meditate with one eye open,
shirt unbuttoned all the way down,
thinking nobody will notice.
The taped sermons your mother plays
in the car get stuck in your head like
heirloom pop songs. But you’d rather listen to
sutras that teach you to lie to your parents,
that skin color can fade five shades paler,
that you should tweeze your
eyebrows until they’re painfully sparse.
At your age Sujata had
already prepared the sweet milk-rice
and offered it to The Blessed One.
But you spend your time eating junk food
and letting white boys
look through your brown body
to look at white girls. 
Remember the sutra you wrote for yourself?
Repeat after me:
Don’t go to pool parties.
Don’t buy bright colors.
Wear jeans in gym class.
By the way,
you do realize that
you can’t put thanaka
over four inches of makeup,
And don’t you know that Yasodhara
never wore foundation two shades too light?
Her face was always naked so that
nothing would smear
off when she bowed her head
at the Buddha’s feet.
You’re crying
in your aunt’s bathroom,
on your twentieth birthday,
ugly-sobbing into my ear.
But you can’t fool me,
or fool an older man.
And he’ll still give you a glass
of water and mouthwash
after you’ve finished puking in his sink.
He’ll lay you—a failed, barely conscious ascetic—
on his bed and give you a ride home
the next morning.
Just get out,
go away,
pity my poor precepts when I say
What the fuck am I supposed to do with you?

You stand there as brazen as ever:
incapable of loving yourself.
But you’re not even listening,
no, you’re too wavy on it,
high and mighty with it…
You don’t want to
visit the monastery right now,
not for a while. 
Get over yourself, girl
Stop smiling at me.
Don’t worry about it.
Take a deep breath, girl,
and keep meditating.


Burmese Decompression Sickness
No, my love is not the most selfless
but it is the deepest.
It clings like tamarind paste
once you cut my stomach open
and expose that brown, sticky
acidic pulp within.
On some days it’s shallow.
You can put your hand six inches in,
feel the walls of my cardia and
pull out spiny, squirming, red blood cells, 
ferment and salt them,
grind and sun dry them.
On Sundays you can jump in feet first
and never reach the bottom. 
The candy can be tangy,
savory, spicy or sweet,
but you might get stuck in strands
of veins and choke on the seeds.
If you just want to bruise my insides,
gut me like a papaya, just know it
won’t be long before
you get the bends,
and tartaric bubbles dissolve
your joints and bone tissue.
I’ll gag when you call it poison,
the ‘motion of my ocean’—
dizziness, vertigo, or nausea-inducing...
I’ll think about the right way to miss you
long after I’ve swallowed you whole.