“Symbiosis” by Nisha Atalie

Reading by the author

What makes a creature
a creature? If it dies without
being named, did it really exist?
The creature next to

me is small and stout
and breathes heavy in her sleep. She
is young, but we grow at different
speeds, an express train

pulling ahead of
the local. Mercury’s orbit
and orbit of Earth. Was I made for
violence? I ask

from the body of
a creature made to hunt. Afraid
she sees the spiders, beetles, and ants
all of the little

bodies that moved and
then didn’t, disappeared by my hand.
The creature and I walk and play and
shuffle in the snow,

clutching my life and
hers, clutching each other’s, thin flakes
landing on carnal tongues.

Nisha Atalie is a writer from the Pacific Northwest based in Chicago. She is a poetry editor at MASKS literary magazine and her poems have been published in Tinderbox PoetryColumbia Poetry ReviewTiger Moth ReviewLandLocked, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Image: “STOP.” by Danni Louise

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