Wednesday, June 8, 2011

native wisdom, loose seed.


Break open the seed

and what do you see?

nothing Baba.

but some how this tree became a fig tree.


My father, green like a neem tree

cupped soil in his palm

and dropped seed like rain

running as roots grasp soil.


India is the land of waiting

my tata told me so.

Ask the fisherman

who peers into graying Krishna river

singing to the deep

jaaldhi meri jaan

for I too have mothers

to feed

cigarette balanced like hourglass.

Tataya cupped his son’s face

in his palm.

and you?

laughter surfacing through yellowing eyes.

He mocks us so

for my baba’s hands learned to wander

around leaf, rock, pen, dollar

fingers stroking ticket

palm waving out window

good bye! shukriah!

Tata waved back

leaning head against stone pillar

watching fisherman reeling in

silver mackerel.


Our youth is spent on a road

of hot coals

sprinting past roadside cricket

and jackfruit kiosks, future branded into the lines

of your palm.


My father once snuck into the cinema

and watched a twenty foot Raj Kapoor singing

Mera Juta Hai Jaapaani,

Ye Patalun Ingalistaani

Sar Pe Laal Topi Rusi,

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustaani

while pressing hand to heart

but trust me:

he wanted those Japanese shoes to bad

to run run run

no waiting now.


My father

ran on 10,000 mile roads of hot coals,

books pressed on cement floors

wax that couldn’t be scraped off floor

I imagine ten year old boy

reading grammar texts like I read faces

papa beat the odds

like every one of your papas

and landed on frigid land

that caused shoulders to tighten

tighten ‘till the body freezes

and coals turn cold

a generation of travels

left to the closing of eyes.

My father learned patience

and holds it in his palm

like custard apple

a fruit too sweet for me to eat.

My feet want to do the listening

to words buried under soil

I want to run

past the pantomime of rock meeting sky

in Chiapas

or bodies bending in Kosovo

I’ll trade sweet bread

for chididhar

and plait hair

India, love me love me love me

hope falls heavy from lips

They can see right through you

my sister insists

well I hope they like what they see:

dark shouldered westerner

writing history with fingers

tracing O-C-E-A-N

in hot dust

capturing Andra sun

while clenching fist.

My pocket called dil

can never be full. I dream

of running to India

to relive a childhood

that was a drop of honey on the tongue

of my father

but sweetness never left mouth

and then maybe I am one of them:


metal laughter like temple bells

swinging on the train

watching stars pass by

time frozen on momentum.

Trust me

I can sip palm wine like a native

play gilidanda

‘till sky turns indigo

and God, can I pray

eyes shut so tight

face scars into custard apple.

India, love me love me love me

mantras seething between lips

until I am parched and out of breath

just like my father and the rickshaw driver

who bravely grins and asks me

which country madam

and I whisper

India every time

But I watch papa walk foreword

and I running back

to the village of Nangali

village of rice pooja and monsoon rain

my hand misses him


he smiles.

It is your time

to travel behind hooded eyes

but time will be your enemy

bring knife to snake

and split it into moments

so that you tuck them into the pocket

you so affectionately call heart

and begin to listen to footsteps fading in earth.


I walk

neck held high

fathers voice mirrors in my own

Mera Juta Hai Jaapaani,

Ye Patalun Ingalistaani

Sar Pe Laal Topi Rusi,

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustaani

and this is the India I know

and one day,

I’ll have in those Japanese shoes

I will bend and pick up the last seed

to fill my pocket.

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