When I walk in she’s mixing someone’s drink, hitting the notes on “How Will I Know,” and later we together-laugh at an inside joke on us.

by Hari Alluri

Tita bartender, LAX, tuxedo
behind a name plate. Three songs deep she drops

into whichever hook comes on
while wide-eyeing a customer round this U-shape bar.

Now, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam and—to each other—
we sing lost in emoshuh-unnn

and I know why I pulled up on this stool
after getting through: the special coded

light that signals random check; the dimensions of
the stare I met before it blinked to stop me; the classic

break I battled to in my head, back
talking the gloves up in my stuff

catchy, stretched out. I sat down here to feel a distance,
the distance in bodies that know

belonging feels like someone else’s music.
Que-sera que-sera over top of the next song’s bridge

bends the language that suppressed our tongues
333 years: she makes it

more beautiful. I’m dancing in my seat.

Hari Alluri is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017), Carving Ashes (CiCAC/Thompson Rivers Press, 2013), and the chapbook The Promise of Rust (Mouthfeel Press, 2016). A co-founding editor at Locked Horn Press with fellowships from VONA/Voices and Las Dos Brujas, his current projects are supported by grants from the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Hari’s work appears in the most recent Poetry In Voice anthology, as well as in The Capilano ReviewCounterclockThe Margins,
Massachusetts ReviewPoemeleonPOETRY, and Wildness, among others. 

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