Salonee Verma

Salonee Verma is a Jharkhandi-American writer and the co-founder of antinarrative (@antinarrativeZ), a collaborative zine. Her work is published or is forthcoming in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, GASHER, Shenandoah, Carousel, VIBE, and more. He has been nominated thrice for the Pushcart Prize, once for the American Voices medal, and is a Graybeal-Gowen Award finalist. Find her online at


All your life you’ve been waiting for something

beautiful, tied up in a fucking ribbon. Levittown was the ideal of

conformity & you want that, sometimes, when you’re lying awake & thinking about

dying young. When you were two, you called

elephants something other than their name. Something beautiful, something

finnicky. Your mother was the only one who took the

golden time to understand you. Baby, here’s what has to

happen: there will be a bell & then a moment where you have to

Inhabit the space. Revel in it. Seize the

jubilee in your palms & let it rot there, waiting for the

Korean market down the street to grow wings &

lift off into the wine-dark sky. Did you know that before

modernity, the sky wasn’t even blue? Some languages were in

need of a word for the great big blueness of the sky,

of the ocean, of the last berries on the mulberry tree, dark &

plump & bursting. Even the ones that had a word were


It’s the end of the world & I am teaching

my money plant to suckle water from its

roots like a child learning milk at birth.


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,

the moon slamming closer to Earth all

of a sudden, as if it didn’t know its place


in the order of things. It was supposed

to be a drought. I kept my water in a

bucket from Home Depot hidden deep


inside the icebox. J told me I was being

a doomsayer & instead, I told her about

the poet-saints who thought they knew


everything. What a bunch of assholes.

They couldn’t predict the tides rising

into another dance of flood and ebb


if they tried. J said that we should get

married. You know, because it was the

end of the world & maybe that was a sign


that we were supposed to make it out

together. Okay, I said. Okay. We wrote

out our vows on the backs of our wrists


with Sharpies so expired we felt high from

the scent. The money plant stood witness

after we taught it to drink again. J told me


that the reason the ocean was salty was

to preserve it. So we poured seven boxes

of kosher salt into our bathtub & lay there


together. How’s that for a wedding night?

Gorgeous girls hunkered in a bathtub

at the bottom of the church while the


oceans boil & burn. J says that we’ll name

the money plant after a messiah but I told

her we need to think creatively if we’re going


to survive this. We named the plant Matsya

& taught it to swim like a snapper. Keep the

family close. Learn to game the apocalypse.


In another universe, I collect folklorists instead of numbers.

At my birth, I was crying something fierce & acting something

like a Scythian lamb. A shitty reincarnation of the esteemed

Vegetable Lamb of Tartary turned bidepal. Placenta as a stem

from a navel, shot through with a kitchen knife before the night

was over. They say that lamb-trees only survive as long as

the grass around them stays free from consumption. My mother

never planted me, but she planted other things, like climbing vines

of bittermelon in the hot Virginia sun. We had long beans to spare

when California stopped sending their crop over. Sometimes she

invited me into the garden, but the minute I stepped on the grass,

I got hives. Probably for the best. If I had touched soil barefoot,

there’s no telling how fast I might’ve taken root. Like a natal plum,

but half as pretty & triple the blood. Heating up on the spit of

summer, close enough to burn but far enough to roast. In this

other universe, I move mountains with the pads of my fingers,

like the other boy-monkey who had a mother like mine, holy &

covered in Earth. Loosely based on the human race, but only

half as new. A secret: the vines climbed into kerosene this

summer. I’m trying to learn to unfurl leaves but the grass is

running dry in the sun—flaky & beached & trying to grow.