for my mother
It’s taken so long to come home. Skin sliced
in your sister’s kitchen, the stink and burst
of flesh, something sweet but dank
with time. The open wound spills.
We bite giant prawns that glow pink
on our plates, then climb to rooftop views:
crooked buildings, Dhaka’s jagged
teeth. Bikes churn up dust from beneath,
and I feel a great coil unwinding.
Snake-charmed, mesmerized. I chant
my cousins’ names as a spell or charm:
Ushmeela. Rashed. Ivy. The gems
of small nieces a nursery rhyme:
Annono, Lavonno, Mo. They paint
looping patterns onto my hands,
maroon veins of mehndi—
tubes of marrow, or blood.
And you, cocooned in your sari
all this time. We lean by potted sprigs
of henna, cool our feet on cement.
Uncles bring lemonade, tell stories
of the skyline and smoke cigarettes.
Your sister refused to leave,
so the city piles its bricks
at the base of her door: industry,
haze, noise. Through traffic-lava,
flats of pipes and giant bolts
twist by on rickshaw floats.
The vendor’s call for shrimp fish
is a cry of jubilation, ricocheting
through mud and stone.
For this while, we are shirts
on a clothesline: clean, dry, free.
We toss roasted peanuts
as hot in our palms as those
sold on the Jersey coast, the ones
you’ll still drive hours
to eat. You say they
taste better by the sea.