tell me how

you brush me aside

like i am some

insignificant phone call

and no matter how many times

the phone rings

no matter how many times

my heart calls for you

you continue to embody

a nonchalant nature that is

remarkably admirable

but nothing to indicate

you miss me

or that i was

ever of importance to you;

your indifference

is the most terrifying reality

that i have ever come to experience.



my lungs

they collapse

at the sound of your voice

and i never

stop hearing

the ringing of your voice

you talk—

i listen

you talk—

i listen

i talk—

i can’t talk

resulting in

those silent

fifteen minute-long voicemails

you receive

from no one in particular

at 4 A.M.

every wednesday night


but i

i would expect you

to inflate them again

to fill me

lift me

complete me

every time

you would miss me

and resurface at my doorstep

i would wait

until you missed me

and resurfaced at my doorstep


but even when i

swallowed the empty words you fed me

the meaningless apologies

that i desperately wanted to believe were true

but knew better than to accept

the breathlessness that resulted

wasn’t due to a loss of words

oh what i would give

to be at a loss of words


but you

you silenced me

with your mouth

not with kisses

but with your mouth

and you trailed bruises

down my neck

not love bites

but bruises

you emptied me

dropped me

broke me

every time

you were lonely

and resurfaced at my doorstep

yet i would wait

until you were lonely

and resurfaced at my doorstep


so tell me how

to stop counting

how many times

the phone rings

or how many times

my heart calls for you


the next morning

when i wake up to

empty sheets

with no trace of you

or the night before

i don’t know if

the ringing had

induced a kind of madness

that caused me to

conjure up

the whole thing

in my mind

but i do know that

it leaves me hollow

eyes burning

and lips trembling


for those few minutes

the next morning

the ringing halts

and i can no longer pretend

i don’t know that

whether it’s one or one hundred

you will never care

to answer.




Prose Response:


While I have personally not been through a traumatic relationship to the extent that this poem exemplifies, this piece was inspired, and is rooted in, one of my deepest fears—losing my voice.


And while this may be ironic and humorous for some, (as I did in fact lose my voice last Friday—stupid laryngitis) I speak of symbolism. I speak of having the ability to talk, but being stripped of the power behind my words. I speak of being completely vulnerable in the wrong hands. A terrifying thought, isn’t it?


Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my voice is one of my biggest strengths. My voice has developed me from the shy, timid 11 year-old, who was afraid to talk to boys, to the strong-willed, ambitious woman that I am today. It allows me to express and act upon my beliefs, and most importantly, it allows me speak for those whom cannot speak for themselves. It allows me to speak on behalf of feminism, islamophobia, and LGBTQ+ rights. It allows me to be passionate, loud, and clear. It allows me to break gender and cultural-related stereotypes, and epitomize what I preach. It allows me to exert my influence. It gives me purpose.


Now, could you imagine having all of that stripped away from you?


Relationships are one of the most terrifying things that have ever surfaced on the face of the Earth. To put into simple terms, I am an absolute control freak. I like to have a complete, utter hold on all aspects of my life, including my emotions. Over the past 17 years, I have learned that the only person that I can truly depend on is myself. I have made myself vulnerable to good friends, only to be dismissed after 7 years of friendship. I have also disappointed those I love, though it was always unintentional. Yet, I have found that both of these scenarios embody a tendency to allow for time travel 6 years into the past. I am once again a shy, timid 11 year-old girl with no control. No voice. Powerless.


And it’s petrifying.


Now, this fear of mine doesn’t drive me away from all of my relationships. Truthful and simple love always seems to stick around. But I know now to reject ignorance, and to refrain from allowing emotion to blind me from reality. I know that my voice will not be lost if I do not let it. I know that the only way to silence the ringing of the oppressor is to refuse to be the oppressed.


So no more ringing.

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4 thoughts on “Ringing

  1. Dear Riya,

    Every time I read your writing I’m amazed by the way you’re able to string together everyday words and phrases into something that delivers such an impactful message. Your poem is breathtaking; the continued metaphor truly exemplifies the worst example of being denied a voice in the activities of your life.

    Trying to talk to someone- hoping they respond-hoping they care, even though your conscience constantly tells you they don’t. Sleeping every night hoping to receive an answer by morning just to be disappointed, trying to convince yourself that they feel as comfortable as you do them, when deep down you know they really don’t. Trying to stop yourself from being hurt, trying to resist the urge to tap send on the twelfth unread message, only to be denied that content by the thought of “What if this gets their attention?” These were the thoughts flying through my mind as I was reading your remarkable poem. To me, such an experience would be deeply scarring and I believe that regardless of the person, we all fear the loneliness that goes hand-in-hand with the disregard your poem is so evidently symbolizes.

    Your response to the poem does and amazing job of completing your thoughts and filling in any remaining questions held by the reader after your poem. Improve such a work of art would be next to impossible but I suggest adding a couple more complete connections to your life. You included a couple vague examples, which helped root your piece and I understand that a topic such as this may be difficult to discuss but one or two solid, deep examples would turn it into a true, complete masterpiece.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work because you exemplify everything you said on a daily basis. Having been friends with you though both high school and student union I can see how motivated you are to address inequalities you witness and can attest to the fact that your voice is your strongest tool. I can’t wait to read your upcoming posts and to be inspired by your amazing skill at both writing and connecting with your readers.

    Yours Truly,

    1. Dear Madhav,

      Thank you so much for your insightful comment. I am very glad that you were able to connect with my poem, and find that my prose tied the piece together.

      I also appreciate your suggestion–I agree that adding a bit more depth to my personal examples would help strengthen the piece. I look forward to using that in my future writing to help connect with readers better.

      Thank you once again for choosing to leave a comment! Your feedback means the world to me.

      Kindest regards,
      Riya Rai

  2. Dear Riya,

    In your voice, you find strength.
    In your words, I find brilliance. Even something as contemptible as a toxic relationship is described in a way that is nothing short of beautiful. Your poem and prose piece, remarkable on their own, complement each other as halves of a greater whole.
    Having known you since that “shy 11 year old” phase, I can definitely attest to the change you’ve undergone as a person as you found you voice. Others, however, who haven’t met that side of you might find that reference to your life a bit vague.
    Overall, this piece was as excellent as one would expect from you. I’m grateful for the opportunity to read not only this, but more of your work in the future. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    Best wishes,

    1. Dear Murtaza,

      Praise from a writer such as yourself is more than I deserve. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece–your thoughtful words made my entire day.

      I will definitely be mindful about going into more depth with my anecdotes in the future. I’ve found that this has been a reoccurring problem for me, because I know what I’m saying. However, others may not, and that’s completely fair. Thank you for helping me strengthen my writing!

      Warmest regards,
      Riya Rai

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