Poetry Feature: “Days of 1985” by Ellen Kombiyil



Oh the body! The delight and am I / normal?

from The Lost Pages of Anne Sexton1


We who pretended to lie down at parties 

with lovers on vinyl couches or wished

we didn’t but wouldn’t admit it, licking

salt from necks, bass leaping with our breath, or was it

expanding/escaping inside us, black light’s

purple stripes transforming eyes/teeth into green 

glowing beings, separate, alive, our faces

into negatives, cried. If we did it (we did it)

to feel for a moment if not loved then

wanted: A boy jammed his tongue in my mouth

because the Coke bottle chose me when it spun,

which was my first kiss. I didn’t ask questions.

Or I fielded Ouija board guesses Yes/No/

………Good-bye. Or I walked into that closet,

willingly let them lock it. O, my wasted 

adolescence! Assessing vertical stripes 

on swimsuits as a function of decreased 

belly fat, obsessed with how thighs pooled 

when I sat, how absent thigh gap leads to ruin.

I dieted on Cheez Balls (one every 55 

minutes, dissolved on the tongue in a pool

of melted butter). Or I teased my hair

to make my face look slimmer. Ruin, from 

the Latin ruere, “to fall” as in fall 

headlong or with a crash. We were always 

falling laughing collapsing unable to stand 

our bodies pulsing with want.


 1. The book quoted is fictional, wished into existence, as is the quote.


Ellen Kombiyil is the author of Histories of the Future Perfect (2015), and a micro-chapbook Avalanche Tunnel (2016). Publications: New Ohio Review, Nimrod, North American Review, and Ploughshares. Awards: Mary M. Fay Poetry Award from Hunter College; Academy of American Poets college prize; Nancy Dean Medieval Prize.