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.
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."