Monday, August 10, 2020

Maya


It was in Chennai that grandmother first died, many years ago
so it's surprising she is here today, her words pleating
back and forth with mine

Wanting ghee-fried bakery bread topped with three sugars
Walking slow slow as though ready to change 
her destination at any time

Then lullabies are on the radio; she sings to her five babies 
(and the infant son who came and went
so quick after my mother).

In her lap, my toddler mother had tried to console her, said: 
"Don’t cry mama, or see--all your face powder  
will wash away

and oh, everyone will know your skin is as black as Kali's."
A hand on the cheek is tender, yet cousin to a slap,
darkened heads fold into armpits like birds.

Skies blur red as if we break open every night--they're lost 
in other stories, arguments--I'll listen for a while, 
before I can open my eyes.

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