Whole Shadows

Ayla Radha Schultz

Brooklyn, NY

Saint Ann's School

Poetry

how do you boil down a life to its edges?

I was a pot-lid-unsealed kind of girl

a never-learned-to-drive kind of girl

a girl who loved to lap up sunlight like money


leave me on a stove and watch me singe

watch my hair curl and skin flake

it smells like rubber the day after

my irises now tinted lightly grey.


I want to see my whole shadows

catch myself aware as I look to the cuts we made

our remnants at one a.m. sing

loud enough to wake the baby next door,

to bend the air and remind ourselves

our substance is still alive

to move others to knock, say:

“It took two hours to put Betty to bed, so

please shut up.”


I was a tea-in-morning kind of girl

an air-caught-on-Sundays kind of girl

a girl who loved to dip her head below the bathwater


when this is all over will we go to the ocean

and float, our limbs will let go

stare up towards the clouds — the world melting

our horizon turning to threads.


we became water and as we boiled over

I wished you happy birthday

our arms melting to meet the counter


last night an ambulance landed

next door, my knuckles bleached

as the circulating horns drilled to my brain

breathe and watch and breathe

I still can lock the doors at night.


I am an always-cold type of girl

a hears-sirens-and-creases-up kind of girl

a girl who checks the locks on windows before she goes to sleep


I woke up and felt like I was closing down

mouth saran-wrapped shut I chopped away the covers

broke arms free — dust always settles off my hair in the morning


can you see my throat constricting?

as I stand by the stove flipping pancakes

one sticks to the cast iron, leaves

a film of crunch behind, peel it up

watch as it gets sucked up the exhaust fan.


meditate, you tell me, place hands on knees

embrace placidity

what if I am terrified?

my voice echoes into blankness

the reverberations coughing back

must I stretch myself to snapping

to find my core?


I am a corners type of girl

a thighs-stuck-to-plastic-chairs-in-July type of girl

a girl who smells like city no matter how much I scrub away my skin.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

From the passionate strength of the title to the final line, this one is refined, casual, beautiful.

Ayla Radha Schultz is a Senior at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. She loves writing both poetry and fiction, and was lucky enough to attend the Iowa Young Writers Workshop in 2019. Her work has been featured in Rattle Young Poets Anthology, Canvas, Aerie International, and the upcoming issue of Hanging Loose Magazine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR