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After Receiving My First Valentine’s Rose from a Blue-Uniformed Honda Rep 



That night at Marino’s Italian: squelch 

of touching tongues, candlelight, and bow-tied 

waiters who whisk by with oysters 

and tiramisu. Velvet jewelry boxes, wine

stained lips, cleavage, and my fist

that floats in front of my face to hide 

Zit-topia—the red mountain range that calls 

my chin home. Mom clasps Dad’s hand. They braid 


fingers. “Saint Valentine’s decapitated skull, 

crowned by fake flowers, lies 

in a glass box in Rome,” I say. Fingers 

unbraid. “Nationalists in Mumbai 

call Valentine’s Day cultural contamination.”

They lean in to hear me above popped corks 

and the saxophone’s trill. I lean back so they won’t 

see the hairs thatched between my eyebrows 

and on my upper lip. Outside the door 


of my apartment building I wave 

goodbye with a half-raised arm that hides

the wet where armpit meets T-shirt. Inside, 

I strip off clothes but leave on green 

and orange mismatched socks. The mirror warps 

my face as I stroke the lipstick trace left 

by Mom’s kiss on my cheek. Its shade matches 

the rose I tuck behind my ear. The rose’s ribbon, blue 

and festooned with Honda logos, I tie 

as a headband around my hair. 


Now dolled up for the occasion, I squat

on the toilet. The rhythm of globs 

splashing into water echoes against porcelain. 

The toilet paper, stamped with hearts

and roses, I use to wipe. 



Reprinted from Likely Red Press 

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