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summoning : ash in my palms, ash on the streets


ISSUE:  Fall 2020

 

—with lines from Louise Glück’s “Mock Orange”

 

reeking of moss & blossom & on the street
i call home, i cannot be sure if i
exist. my thighs press on one another

& it is something of reminder—here are shorts
and a sheer top—& i pass a minivan, no color
in particular, its doors and trunk 

open, interior filled with funerary 
bouquets, satin ribbons spilling
out the back, white & red & yellow bulbs & so

many stems. i’m thinking about support,
what makes me possible here, next 
to the colonnades, the mourning

filing unceremoniously out to smoke 
on the front steps in dresses i think 
to myself are too short for lament—     & then look 

at my inner oppressor
again. thirteen months since we scattered
Dadaji’s ashes. i’m reminded : no ceremony 

does justice. i walk on & keep
grieving everything i see, 
there & here. 

+

preparing for some Q&A i face
myself frontal, hair in curlers

& vegetable oil, the way 

i was taught, Ma’s fingers kneading 
my supple dough, thin 

skin, silly skull. only so many poems 

come each year. women, i feel
a pressing, & yet some days—     . here’s

what happens when i shirk your pain.

i wrestle each clip from its clamp 
& hold. the curls 

fall away & i’m on camera,

limp. i’m sitting next to myself.
she speaks for me. i hate her

as I hate sex,

the man’s mouth / sealing my mouth, the man’s
paralyzing body—


+

i use the wrong spelling of the American 
word because, yeah, i guess technically
i’ve been owned by the English? my love retorts 

meaning nothing of it : “didn’t you grow up here?”yes, 
I hear the question and pursuing answer
fused in one sound

that mounts and mounts and then
is split into the old selves. yes, i am an unleashed 
flock of hummingbirds. i’m nothing 

if not your language 
& how i adhere to it without asking 
any questions, any questions at all.
+


mortuaries & i sit nestled behind 
thick curtains, air conditioner blaring

my privilege like a siren.

ran from a man across the street again
tonight, followed other immigrants’ names

home—Gangemi, Baldi, Grasso.

he tracked my weaving through a maze 
of parked cars, called me “snack,” then

“cunt.” i live in the Empire

& peace is illusion 
everywhere.

+

alone online, i hunt for more 
motherland. am starved 
for belonging. will never

belong. Ma would say : “wherever you are,
you’re home.”i find a video of men 
in Kerala palming short glass 

cups of tea. their fingers claw
the edges, flip upside down & back 
& the milk sifts like a drunk cloud 

into chai & cardamom pods swirl 
to the surface despite the inverted 
tornado. skinny brown things 

with star-shaped crowns, bobbing 
in the white. i’m tired, don’t transcribe
the metaphor.
+

of the role of silence in this world
i want to write something like :who violences

us, who palms our tender 

skulls & plucks us 
from the silver tray. 

here i am trying

to hold on to my head.
How can I rest?

+

i summon the version of your
masc-love, that does not

exoticize or point out, yeah,

my onstage persona
is really Indian, almost as if

i myself am Indian. “that’s why

i want my nose pierced,” i’d said
to my mother at sixteen—stoned

on the good high of not eating

& disappearing white, Ma in the hospital
riddled with malaria—“i want to feel

connected.”

 

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