Poem: diagnosis



[ID: White and grey illustrations of symbols from the poem.]

Poetry by Dia Bhojwani 
Art by Aiden Tsen

Content Warning: OCD, intrusive thoughts of death



the sky is glutted with stars

and my heart with squirming maggots

it is 3 AM

and I cannot fall asleep

the rot in me keeps choking me awake


what if your parents died in a car accident

what if your house burned down

what if nothing means anything

what if what if what if what if


I hate those two words

more than anyone will ever know


when I was 5, I caught my father smoking a cigarette

and despite knowing he did it once in a blue moon

I hid every lighter in the house under

a stack of towels

my throat went tight

when he coughed


when I was 8, my grandmother

died in her sleep

for two years, i would tip toe

around in the dark

placing a finger

under the nose

of somnolent loved ones

 to check

whether they were still breathing

i didn’t feel like I could exhale


I felt their own

tickle my tiny finger


when I was 10, I read a book about the afterlife

and grew fearful

that all there was after

was an all-consuming sleep

a void of consciousness

I did not know that when I was older

I would sometimes want this



three neat alphabets for

all my mess

people joke about hand sanitizer

and a cherry knot ties

itself in my throat


OCD isn’t always

scrubbing your hands raw

or switching lights on and off



it is begging the stars

to sing you into something

the world could love



it is wishing you could turn

your neurosis, your arsenic

into a story someone could stand to hear



it is wielding a pen

when you can’t pull the trigger

Dia Bhojwani is a 16-year-old writer, editor, and anchor who lives in Mumbai, India. She is published or forthcoming in The Punch Magazine, Parallax Literary Magazine, The Ice Lolly Review, and The Hearth Magazine, amongst others, and has won awards from the WingWord Poetry Prize and Lune Spark. Her first book, The Pandemic Diaries, was published this January. She's passionate about messy character arcs, mental health, and Hawaiian pizza.