Thursday, May 09, 2024

it's old and faded now

Although we always felt some pity for her by that point in our visit 
when our Dorakanti grandmother would lament that though she'd yearned for daughters 
all her life, all she had been given were six sons 
and that was why she loved her granddaughters so much
my sister and I would remain stiff and unbending. 

We had heard that Dorakanti grandmother had been mean to our mother 
when she was a new daughter-in-law 
and that made her eternally unpleasant in our eyes. 

We were stiff as scarecrows inside Dorakanti grandmother’s embrace
stiff and unfriendly to the children from next door summoned to play with us
and our interactions with the special snacks made for us were cursory.

We paid attention when it was story time, but only silently
and only because it was dark and no one could see our eyes stirring to the story 
the punctuating “umms,” which were our duty as audience, needlessly parsimonious and slow.

Dorakanti grandmother’s stories were strange in that they never began with a “once upon a time.”
They all began, “in a place,” “in a village,” “in a town.” 
It was as if these stories where the prince fell in love with the princess 
after chancing upon just one filament of her preternaturally long and fragrant hair 
or where the young prince battled tigers to impress his mother
--as if these stupid, unnatural things had happened just a few weeks before we came to visit.

And at the end of the story when the prince married the princess 
or the young prince was crowned, there would be a big celebration 
and grandmother would launch her punch line:
“That was when they presented me with this sari,” she would say, 
holding her sari out for us to touch, hoping we would scoot closer to her. 
It’s old and faded now, but it was rich and shiny when they gave it to me.” 
And we’d reach for her sari politely enough, 
even knowing that our fingers would be snatched up and kissed, 
but we’d remain curled up around ourselves, my sister‘s hand in mine.

And although I'd will myself to fall asleep quickly
knowing dad would take us home the next day
I'd wake as grandmother stroked our limbs before she left the room
stretching each of our legs in the half darkness to their furthest length 
so we'd "grow tall in our sleep" and not take after her.

Pic: Max getting his zoomies out. All I have to say to this puppy I love so much is "I'm going to CATCH you, Maxie!" That's it, he'll play keep-away for the next five minutes. Scout played this way too, so I enjoy this on so many levels.


Gillian said...


Nance said...

What a beautiful poem. I could feel the tension and the stress in the lines; I loved how the speaker was retelling, yet the tone was so immediate and fretful, childlike.

It's a real tour de force. So incredibly well done. Wow.

(I love this action shot of Max. Isn't it a joy to watch pups run at top speed, having so much fun?)

StephLove said...

Love the last line.

The line about the snacks seems grammatically awkward but I was thinking that might have been on purpose, to reflect the awkwardness of the whole visit. Is that right?

maya said...

Thanks, Gillian!

Nance--OMG, thank you!!

And yes! What with the weather, the greening, the sunshine, and this crazy puppy, I feel so much joy <3.

Steph--Thank you so much!
Yes, about the awkwardness. But is there something grammatically "off" about the line with the snacks? I was going for treating the snacks disdainfully because she'd offered them. But if there is a grammatical issue, it's going over my head. Thank you for reading <3

StephLove said...

The syntax isn't incorrect. It's just the word choice is oddly formal. You wouldn't normally say you interact with snacks. But I thought you might be going for that, to reflect the distance between the kids and the grandmother.

maya said...

Thanks for taking another look, Steph!

NGS said...

Familial relations are so complicated, aren't they? I'm glad you shared this with us, Maya.

maya said...

Engie--Oh! SO complicated. I used to be super petulant to boot. LOL

crossed lines

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