into a thin portion of my long life, a memory
from the backyard. There are so many hours
that we gave over to each other in innocence.
Growing up was a strange and mammoth task
that we were going to do together: my house
was always welcoming, wooden floors and suave
architect parents straight out of a picture book
you never read. I never asked about your parents.
We never went to your house. I do not really
remember it, except in fleeting images: it was
a dingy room, and I was uncomfortable.
We were young and we talked all evening but
we never talked about how we were different.
The words I am using in this poem are leaving
a particular taste in my mouth, something to do
with ruin and sadness.
This poem pretends to be an exercise
in memory, but perhaps it is, instead,
an exorcism. Or a monument of guilt.
I do not remember your father. I think he was
tangled arms of our childhood, must have grown
by now. I can pretend I do not remember his name,
I remember your smiling mother with sweet
Nepali eyes. She was a maid in the doctors’
house down the lane - or ‘house help’ - what is
the word? - but we never wondered then.
Perhaps you do not wonder now. I hope
you never have to.
When I meet you now, I worry
the Hindi sounds stilted in my voice.
When somebody says old friend, or
somebody from my childhood, I think
always only of you, never of the fat girls
in puffy dresses who I met at birthday parties,
never of the tall boys in torn denim whose eyes
I could never meet. You, with straight black hair
and eyes that narrowed into happy slits, I met you
every day. Things I have almost forgotten, but
not quite: our various childhood obsessions, how
we spent every long afternoon in the lazy sun,
how we swung from the bottlebrush branches,
did cartwheels on the street, made houses
out of cardboard, and sat on the white swing
in the backyard, thin legs dangling, and talked.
But now, if I cannot find my tongue in the
language we lived in, how will I tell you
This is a monument of guilt, a document
of privilege that claws at my heart when I
am not listening. My father tells me to meet
you. You are in college too. Your english isn’t
bad at all, but who the fuck am I to tell you that?
I cringe, curl up, curse history. In my literature
classes, I study the subaltern. I hope you never
read this poem. I don’t know if you will understand.
There is nothing to understand. The anthropology
of this country leaves me reeling, and I have nothing
to say in my defence. Sometimes in Delhi I go to
Khan Market in a crop top and drink sangria
in the early afternoon.