Seema Reza


Orbit: The Asian American Issue
Volume 15:3, Summer 2014


The first week of my cycle I crave sour: dark, round globs of tamarind concentrate nested in the depressions of teaspoons, blackening my tongue, sticking my teeth.  I lick wedges of lemon after they’ve been squeezed and pucker my lips, closing my mouth tight against what I should have said.

The second week of my cycle I need cold: frozen peas crunch feebly before surrendering between my teeth.  Ice water soothes my sternum, quiets my belly, calms my nerves. I curl pats of sorbet in my tongue and when I unfurl it, all that rolls off is calculated, rational, detached.

The third week of my cycle I want only sugar: honey glistening on warm slices of cake, frothy peaks of whipped cream expelled from the can.  Velvet slabs of cheesecake stay thick in my mouth, cling to my palate, wait patiently until I am through with them.  The sweetness lingers in the corners of my lips, I catch it on the tip of my tongue and the words I form are gentle, kind, ingratiating.

The fourth week of my cycle I seek out fire: scalding tea the brown of my skin, wasabi peas that crunch and burn, oily pickled mangoes and carrots flecked with pepper seeds.  The spiced bag of hot mix includes raisins to temper the heat and I discard them, allowing my breath to turn to smoke.  When my mouth opens, poison rushes out.

And then I crave flesh: I trace the smooth, uneven scar on your shoulder with my tongue, take your chin—bristled, soft and hard—into my mouth.  I bite your hands, scrape my teeth along the innocence of your earlobes.  I lick the sorrowful sourness from your lips, pull your sweetness inside me, inhale your fury.


Seema Reza is the author of When the World Breaks Open, a memoir of essays and poetry (Red Hen Press, 2016). Based outside of Washington, DC, she coordinates and facilitates a unique multi-hospital arts program that encourages the use of the arts as a tool for narration, self-care and socialization among a population struggling with emotional and physical injuries. Her writing has appeared in print and on-line in Entropy, The Feminist Wire, Bellevue Literary Review, The Offing, Full Grown People, and The Nervous Breakdown among others. She is the Chair of Community Building Art Works. Her second book, a collection of poetry is forthcoming from Write Bloody in 2019.