Poetry: Essay on Class by Gaia Rajan

Gaia Rajan’s “Essay on Class” reveals its speaker’s personal exploration of the relationship between wealth and the accessibility of beautiful things. We love this poem in part for its tone, which is quietly measured, and the contrast this has with the real glimpses we get into the speaker’s life and this other world which the speaker is peering into.

Essay on Class

Five roommates, three cats, radiator snorted black dust
onto cardboard boxes I called furniture
and the cats inhaled it and slunk around sneezing.
I stole oranges, bought leather wingtips
instead of dinner and snuck into museums.
I became obsessive about linen as a mechanism
for impersonation. For months fell asleep listening
to an art collector on NPR. The most he’d say
of any acquisition was that it was nice or even
quite nice which meant about two billion. And then
the details of medium, the art school
the young artist had attended, always one of the three
most expensive in the cities. The trick was always
to avoid awe. The rich participate in beauty
but do not acknowledge it. My only indulgence
was the pulpy straight romances I’d read on the bus,
the kind with a woman’s face looking up into
anonymous, chiseled arms, so fleshy
the author names were all pseudonyms
and the bookseller raised her eyebrows when I checked out.
I always imagined myself as him, so full
of veins and a sureness, velocity.
When, streetlit, he pushed her up against the brick
of the alley to finally kiss her, I gasped aloud.

Gaia Rajan

Gaia Rajan is the author of the chapbooks Moth Funerals (Glass Poetry Press 2020) and Killing It (Black Lawrence Press 2022). Their work is published or forthcoming in Best New Poets, the Best of the Net anthology, The Kenyon Review, THRUSH, Split Lip Magazine, diode, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. Gaia is an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, studying computer science and creative writing. They live in Pittsburgh. You can find them at @gaiarajan on Twitter or Instagram.

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