Kanika Ahuja


Belladonna means ‘beautiful woman’ as it was used by Renaissance women to dilate their pupils.

I don’t have a choice, but I’d still
choose you, and forgive myself

the next morning. Forgiveness
feels like a broken record that

screeches each time it stutters under
the needle. I am made up of too many

creaking joints left unhinged by lost loves,
so if you pour in me a melody, I’m afraid

it will not flow through. I am not afraid
of love, only of the way it makes blood

curdle. Legend goes, women have used
poison to dilate pupils to seduce beloveds.

The next time I suffer from a blindness
that makes me lovesick, at least I will

know I’m not the first woman to mistake
the delirium of slow poison for the sweet

aftertaste of a midnight kiss. I am un-
aware of the ways in which gravity

forgives me each evening for wanting
to fall flat on my knees, as if falling

is only graceful in a dandelion meadow,
a delusion I am not allowed yet. There

is a fine line between death and desire,
both separated by the stuttering needle

of choice.

Note: The poem begins with the lyrics from “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars, and the name of the song also contributes to a part of the title for the poem. 

Kanika believes in the inexplicable joy of sunshines and smiles, hoarding verses on sticky notes in mason jars to be set free like paper boats on rainy days. A poet, performer and educator of poetry, her work appears, or is forthcoming, at The Medley, Sidereal Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Emerge Literary Journal and Airplane Poetry Movement’s Ultimate Poetry Anthology. She is based in New Delhi, India.

She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @kanika0326