Showing posts with label Family Tree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Tree. Show all posts

Friday, January 07, 2022

"Powerful beyond stage and screen"

My parents were such huge fans of Sir Sidney Poitier, they had us kids watch all their favorites on VHS. 

I must have thought of them as documentary, so imagine my horror and surprise when I got to the USA and realized that racism hadn't been neatly resolved decades ago.

But in these past decades, I've come to appreciate what an amazing trailblazer he was even "beyond stage and screen" as Bernice King notes. 

Rest in Power, Sir.

__________________

Vaguely related: I gave At this this Desmond Tutu apron for Christmas and the Rev. died the very next week; At gave me this edition of In the Heat of the Night and now Sir Sidney is no more. How jinx-y are we?

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

an international call

 


If you called my extreme condition: you might 
diagnose sister love--but do you know  
about the side effects

when my phone tells me it's her calling
--nausea, dry mouth, anxiety, 
shortness of breath

she knows this and inserts a subject line 
even as I--"hello?" "All's well, Akka,
I just called..."

 international calls are ordinary yet hide
like a virus inside information 
 finding a way to threaten

despite the softness of my sister's voice--
noisy futures sometimes dance 
alongside the old world 

international calls will make me watch--
make me guess who'll partner next 
parents, cousins, other loves

"I just called..." she says "one million cases..."
she says "I wanted to tell you all
 to be safe and careful."

Of course there's no way to be careful enough
(home is: a high school student,
a fast food worker, an ER doc)

I'm in the literal woods now (the metaphorical 
end of the sea), until the sun unhooks itself 
from a cloud shaped like a headache

and sails into the sky without even a cough
just this high, bright, and bored god
bearing messages--but not for me

-----------------------------------------------
Pic: Sunrise at Baker Woods. The phone rang as I was taking this picture, and I panicked when I saw it was my sister as it was kind of an unusual time for her to call me. She was calling because we--the U.S.--topped over a million NEW Covid infections yesterday. She wanted to ask the family to be safe and careful. But how? 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

trance


it's like breezes open my mouth
to pour in 
salted happiness

but how well do I know myself?
sleep (do not) want to sleep

so tonight becomes a cartwheel 
of love on sliding sands

the glow of my amma, dad, uncle, 
aunt, and sister at a bonfire

the rap of waves half a world away
in harmony with my heartbeat

and here's me waiting for something 
wild    to wish me goodnight

------------------------------------------
Pic: Picture of sunrise on the beach (Bay of Bengal) from a trip mom, dad, and Chelli took to visit VM and AA. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

for you too may have / questions about this story


                                                                             
                                                                      the tongue a knife probing                                          
our mom didn't tell this story 
till she was safe home again
how traveling to Chennai 
in the rains--she said--they 

                            the cleft palate of memory 
couldn't tell which was river 
which was road... and then 
went skidding into a ditch...
thanks to the gods--she said--

                           the smile tucked up in secret
thanks to all the gods some
villagers were passing and
they were kind and pushed
our car back onto the road  

                            the lips nudged into detail
then softly: but... they said
some mean things in Tamil 
like uncle is a terrible driver 
who shouldn't have a big car 

                             the gummy words murderous
even more softly: aunty and I 
were in the car, so they said
look at those fatty gundechis
just sitting on their bottoms

                             the mouthful of arguments
But I still told uncle we should 
reward them, give some... thing?
But he said no, that wasn't fine 
they might ask for more next time

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I know the generosity of Tamil people well. When I was pregnant with At, people would keep offering me food even if all they themselves were eating was a paper cone of sundal or peanuts. I am beyond horrified-ashamed-saddened that my family didn't offer anything--payment/a ride/money for coffee-tiffin to the people who may have saved their lives in the middle of a cyclone. (The cheeky, irreverent humor checks out too.)

Friday, November 26, 2021

post-prandial

Went on a hike with Big A while the grandparents hung out with Nu, Scout, and Huck. We headed to Baker Woods and weren't gone very long, but we were the only ones there and it felt like a different world. 

Later, we packed up the grandparents with snacks, cider, and one of the flower arrangements from yesterday's table, and waved our goodbyes as they headed back to Ohio. 

Then a long soak with Big A, a great heart-to-heart with Nu, + snacks + old sitcoms + naps.  

It was the perfect chaser to yesterday.
 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

Time to eat?
(We can't see the three puppies in this one, 
but the fish I was going to feed them
--in the white bowl that doesn't go with anything else--
made it into the picture 😛.)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

pooja-fun

I'm heartsore I cannot be in Pondycherry ("is it full of ponds and cherries?" baby cousin A asked once) tomorrow. 

The pooja is tomorrow, but I bet everyone's already assembling now--finding empty bedrooms, screeching helloes, making plans, and having so much fun for Kartika. As Big A reminded me so helpfully yesterday, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to be at Kartika pooja because it's such a busy time in the academic year. 

We usually did the big festivals like Diwali and Pongal at home or with the other side of the family, but the November full moon festival was always the big event for all the cousins on my mom's side. For many years after I came to the U.S., my favorite aunt would sweetly save the turmeric-soaked wristlets for me to pick up on my next trip home, but I haven't been back in years at this point. The nostalgia is hitting hard this year.

Baby cousin B has been sending pictures on cousin chat to keep me in the loop. This picture has so many of my favorite things--the sea, the little Ganesha temple, the tulsi maadam, the new swimming pool, the effortless green everywhere... Gah. I just wish I could be there for at least 24 hours.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

the soft dark


Darkness feels deafening tonight. A student at Nu's school has been missing since last week. I do not know this young person or their family, but many of my local friends do. When I asked Nu if they'd seen the missing child recently, they said that they hadn't "in years." That was such a stark reminder that disappearance comes in many forms. 

I caught a picture of this close to full moon through our skylights just before bed--darkness, shadows, dead leaves, and all... it was nevertheless a kind reminder that in an another part of the world, huge numbers of my family are gathering to celebrate the Karthika full moon soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

going on goings on

don't separate me from what I remember
for I sin against completion 
I say I want want so much from this life 
and yet I keep giving it away  

my mom said she found a college friend 
from forty years ago on Facebook
she's a bit proud and shy telling me how
because it's detective shit/stalking

my sister gamely practices a funny line 
from a cartoon only I have seen
we bounce it between us: "back to you"
laughter shimmers in our mouths 

in the richness of boredom I'm dissolving
into blessings, learning lessons
of normalcy, finding myself in some stories 
I've braided out of ordinariness

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

birthdays and first days


It's my grandmother's birthday today, so this picture of her just before she got married at 16 has been doing the rounds on cousins' chat. As has something I wrote long ago.

First day of classes today... I panicked hard yesterday, despite having taught in person all of last year. But the usual combination of over prepping and the endorphin-adrenalin rush of being in front of a class kicked in and all was well. Finished up work with a small reception at the president's house for being on a search committee that met all summer long.

When I got home, Big A was napping ahead of a work-night, At was off canvassing, Nu was in the basement knuckle-deep in a paint project for a class. So I grabbed my Culver's dinner from L's fundraiser for Peacequest, queued up some Felicity on ye olde laptop, and ate with Scout and Huck for company. 

A bit of an anticlimactic end to the day, TBH. 


Monday, July 12, 2021

island times


Off to San Juan Islands --> 
Friday Harbor --> 

Day tripping to Cattlepoint, the lighthouse, lawn games, barbecue, dancing, laughing and snarking on cousins' old Chennai stories about 27D (bus # not Apt. #), cousins learning to play the parai, slideshows, baby cousins, laser-point astronomy demos, and chatting until I fell asleep on someone's couch... 

I have this seascape with the seagull on "loop" mode on my phone and know that I'll come back to this when I need a mental/emotional breather.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Concise Bharatha

This isn't my birthplace and I am 

louder for my heart is misplaced;

I dwindle but first I do no harm.

Then I turn calm, you must come 

too--time shrugs on, on its own. 

*

He hugs the walls when he walks

my sister says of our dad.

We should have bars in the shower 

my husband says of my dad.

I think of my dad--


mightiest of his four brothers

how he sat all his brothers on his 

meaty biceps--or was that Bhima

also second-born--I'm confused

by the words rolling in my mouth.

*

It's easy to break, ask water--what's 

next in the shadow of time's coming.

Of first learning to trust every day's 

ordinary dance, stepping to calm, 

to harm; saying: I'll take it.


--------------------------

Notes: 

My father actually has six brothers, but my youngest uncle is seventeen years younger than dad and so the five older brothers were routinely referred to as the Pandavas in dad's childhood. Dad, although affected by polio as toddler, was somehow also the strongest and sportiest brother--captain of several teams in both school and college. 

I routinely confused stories about dad and Bhima when I was a kid. Still do. I don't know if seating all the brothers on his arms was a dad thing, a Bhima thing, or a dad thing inspired by Bhima... and I'm not going to try to find out. Naturally, I was shaken when my sister told me this morning how weakened he's become because he looks not very different in photos and when we video chat. 

The Mahabharatha because it is so long (the longest!) and has so many embedded frametales sometimes works on me as a reminder of how life is transient. Lives get lost in that huge narrative, and somehow recognizing individual insignificance is calming? Here, I'm reaching for an abridged version of that fatalistic calm.

Distance is a huge in the pandemic, and I yearn to see everyone 'back home' knowing it may not happen for months or even this year. So the other part of what I was trying to do was to call back to the old country "Bharat/Bharatha."


Friday, January 29, 2021

Minutiae

A choppy day full of big and small edits to other people's work; meetings galore; + followups, feedback, and fuckery. 

Met Nu's new therapist 💕; fielded pandemic tech suggestions from my mom 💕; handled paperwork and planner work. 

A loooooooong walk by myself (Wonch Park) was the best part of today. Reread favorite bits of Piranesi, started The Lost Girls, took a loooooooong bath, and fell asleep for a bit with Scout (and Nu and Huck) while watching Korra... There's an absolutely brilliant moon out now, and I'm glad what's looming is the weekend. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Rising Up

I've loved this tree on the Red Cedar River from the first time I noticed it. Especially the branch that looks like it was laid low but decided to aim upwards anyway.

As we close out 2020 (with LB's food exchange, SD's Zoom party in MD, and calls and texts from all over the world), I want for all of us to rise up in every way in 2021.

And I'd really, really like to see my sister and parents.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Through my Head


My children's love passes right through me

(like an arrow, like a bullet)

My parents' love steeps all through me

(like a tantrum, like a blush).


I fear death; there are deaths I fear more:

My deaf father sleeps deep

through knocking, my mother and sister 

talking--unmoving.


My tired children sleep past the blare 

of smoke alarms, heavy

I wonder if I can shake them awake

like a pair of dead batteries.


But the world does its singing, then

my body curls like smoke

plummets, coaxes with folded hands

draws doors in heartache.


So let me tell you how I scan the dates 

of people's lives, guessing--from 

the headlines of their last year--if death 

might have felt like a blessing.


_

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Tiny Notes


The tiny tree went up this weekend--powered 95% by At and Nu. 

😍

While I was writing that poem about Chelli's moving day yesterday, I was trying to make the verses look like the many roofs we've been under, but it actually looks like a tree too!

Also, as she said after she read that poem, I completed it "so fast!" High praise indeed! 

😛

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Moving Day 8000 Miles Away


8000 miles away

my sister is moving  

her furniture is being taken apart now

it will be put back together again, very soon.


She remembers how I arrived at her 

house in Delhi the week before she did,

how I cut my hand open unpacking boxes, how 

I made that a joke about my rakta dan--"blood sacrifice." 


I don't remember this story. But 

she giggles and so then I giggle and then 

we tell each other how much we love each other. 

When will we see each other again? (There aren't even plans.)


And I want to say: Take a break! 

Need to ask: Are you tired? Is that heavy?

But I look at the telephone; I just... miss you. 

There's more air than we can breathe between us.


Exile now feels like breaking--

like an earthquake--inside out, fragile 

as though an eggshell holding hatchlings,

a coming to--on the other side of worldliness.


There are stones in my throat all day

so I stumble. I speak slowly as though in 

a foreign language (all language feels foreign,

cannot say what I feel, clots like moonlight in my brain).


I just parrot from poems I read:

"Art thou weary? Art thou weary?" I dream you 

give the movers the address, but Bangalore traffic sounds

harmonize it into my name, send it--back in a whisper to you.


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