issue 31 poetry

Self-Portrait as a Witness

by Javeria Hasnain

Predatory Stink Bugs on Antique Glass by Katie Whatley

Self-Portrait as a Witness

Is that how you have seen me all your life—
unmirrored as I am. I wish I too had looked

at myself longer as a child. Once, N fascinated
the whole class by turning her fingers into a claw.

I’m a vulture, she said, as if it was something to be
proud of. Frankly, it looked hideous, & painful. I said,

I go to seek a great perhaps meaning I was trying to escape
ugliness all my life. And every day, I saw S squirming

like one of the fishes at the supermarket. Not the beauti-
ful fishes you see on Nat Geo, or Discovery, or your

local aquarium, but the greyscale ones in abundance,
those that nobody minds dead or devoured, or bargained

for. After certain witnessing, you could adjust to any kind of ugliness:
his pupils reaching the back of his eyes, neck wet with sputum,

his fingers morphing into claws, a mule-like shriek exiting his mouth
into vapor. There was nothing extraordinary about any of it.

Javeria Hasnain is a poet from Karachi, Pakistan. She is a Fulbright scholar pursuing her MFA in Poetry at The New School. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poet Lore, The Margins, beestung, and elsewhere. She works at Cave Canem and reads poetry for The Adroit Journal. 

Katie Whatley is a Queer artist born and raised in South Florida. She is pursuing a Painting and Drawing minor in addition to her Bachelor’s in Political Science at Louisiana State University. She currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA, where she enjoys LSU Tigers football. Her work has been featured in publications such as 805 Lit + Art and Sink Hollow.