For Fall Poetry Event: An Ode to My Preening

Two poems for the Poetry Salon by Nidhi Thakur

Multiple sets of semi-precious dangling earrings,
Colorful and silver-lined,
I hoist a pair of you to my ears
For the purpose your color serves today,
matching, coordinated to my clothes, service until death, the danglers say.

The borders of your appearance will always be protected.

Silver, semi-silver, semi-precious,
Red, blue, yellow and white glass beads,
Orange jack-o-lanterns, and white snowmans
for the holidays.

I choose you
Because nothing glorious, nothing noteworthy
ever happened in the 1000 years of my grandparents’ lives,

nor anything worth remembering in the 150 years of my parents existence,
the British came, they conquered, and they plundered India,
district by district, and
they left India in a famine, and
severed a fit and robust arm to leave India in pain, and that arm, an equally hurt Pakistan.

Irresponsible: My neighbor quitting the Indian army and being unemployed for a decade, reproducing, starving kids, rebuking wife, repeatedly.

Unimpressed: the young wife of our local priest; she eloped finally leaving behind two little children, a shamed husband, and a cursing mother-in-law.

Enslaved, Helpless: my mother waking up to the rooster’s call, to bathe, and to prepare food for kids, and for the aging but agile in-laws, and to go to work, the loose end of her sari

always covering her head in respect
for all the traditions she was handed down in an unwritten tablet,
from everyone who mattered,
and not.

She died 10 years ago of a cancer in her gut, stone-faced by her last days,
the red dot on her forehead pointing to the husband who was alive,
her boast of her grandeur at fading a married woman, as opposed to dying a widow’s death.

Wooden earrings, steel ones with colored feathers,
and that terracotta grey pair, an exquisite pair picked from the tribal craft fair, last February.

I procure you, from the many things out there, with not much money in my pocket,
Because fitted with you, I don’t need to comb my hair, or powder my cheeks. I don’t just want to be present anywhere. I want to be presented, and you do that for me. I feel.

I choose from the almost uncounted number of pairs I have,
and as each pin finds its way into the small hole punctured on the hanging cartilage of the ear
I seal the pins with the screws,
without you, how will I look a woman enough to
Charm, big-brained enough to be listened to, and
prepared enough with an armor of confidence when the world looks to me.

I was taught to dislike the made-up dolls, the super pruned bimbos,
And the on-the-dot manicured-mannequins,
and yet, my own desire to look good has always existed, I know.
You are my only weaponry for the looks I deserve, the looks I like.
I couldn’t do without you. I know.

I pick you up at flea markets,
I happily accept hand-me-downs from older sisters.

In my world, the one that I have dissolved in for now,
every woman is educated, keeps a great house, holds a job often-times, typically has two beautiful bonny children, speaks with a flair, and cooks out of this world, and
her husband earns well,
and he appears handsome too;
in parties, they dance together, like couples who have been taking the ballroom dancing class every Wednesday at the 92nd Y.
I do all that too, I think.
Yes, I also dress my ears, with caution, with care, and with pride.
I am noticed now, I am told.
I like that.
That is a passport to a nation I love to belong to.

Green peridot ovals hanging by thin copper wire,
Radiant blue drops faking the brilliance of a sapphire,
Hang on me, for,
I hang by you.
Come, complete my face for everything it lacks.

 

To My BBFF: Best Bitchy Friend Forever 

I saw you the other day,

At our neighborhood Trader Joe’s. 

You bagged a whole load of Bananas, Fuji apples,

And Kaiser rolls, 

You waved a bye to Anita, the super tall cashier, 

the one who always wears two different ear-rings…that day she had a guitar in one ear, and what looked like a pair of boxing gloves in another. 

And you even waved a ‘hi’ to me.

Everything familiar, everyone same,

Except you. 

Except us.

It was a cloudy day then. 

Raindrops, we know, are infinite ways of washing away the million dust motes that settle on things.

But The dry air all around us, since the winter two years back, 

When somehow we sowed,

with our own hands seeds of distrust, 

saplings of isolation,

and jungles of confusion,

yes the air around us since that winter,

is so dry,

That our eyes now appear empty, liquid less.

But, 

my angel friend,

I save deep within me, a tear-drop, just for you and me.

And with it, I  soak myself in joy, every now and then, 

when I think of how,

we sometimes came together to buy

the Kaiser rolls, the bananas and the Fuji apples,

and loitered through the flower aisles,

commenting on Anita’s ear-rings and our growing children’s growing pouts,

often in our native language,

when we wanted to be Bitches.

Grocery Stores still makes brisk sales, 

Many a Cashiers look sweet, like always.

Fuji apples, come and go, with the season.

It’s just that I swallow now so many unsaid words, 

about Anita, and about Sunita’s over the top sari, 

and about how I suspect the Raman-our neighbor, might be a gambling addict. 

All those unutterables, all those prejudices, all those silly stutters, 

I swallow them now, and they form in my throat a lump.

A sister is someone you love for she was born in your blood.

Daughter likewise.

But that BBFF

You love her,

For, She let’s you be someone who is not always super nice.

For, She shares with you the details, that mean nothing in the bigger plan.

For, She cares for you with home-made apple-pie, halwa, paneer and nan.

You fill up together the piggy-bank of untellable tales,

Whose memories you think you will encash.

When kids have sprouted wings, and arthritis tethers you to the first floor,

And all you are left with, is a lifetime of mish-mash,

Of told you-so’s, and unheard woes,

Of paths taken, and people forsaken.

If to err is human, we together are divinely so.

We together WERE divinely so.

Sometimes I urgently miss you!

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