Poetry / December 2014 (Issue 26)

A Still Life

by Varsha Saraiya-Shah

after viewing an installation by Dinh Q. Lê, Crossing The Farther Shore, 2014, at Rice Gallery, Houston, TX

        I arrived at the port of angels with a trousseau
of silk saris and blouses, a rolling pin
and round board just like mother's to make rotis, containers
of spices like asafetida and fenugreek, home-ground
cumin-coriander I may not find in my new homeland.

        I arrived with twenty-two years packed
in each cell of my body imprinted
with Diwali, holi, and many more festivals,
monsoon at the center.

        Years later, my home has little to do with the old
carefully stored in air-tight containers
in closets. Rose attar replaced with lavender
and incense with none. Jasmine and honeysuckle
still two best friends, east and west overlapping the shores.

        I re-read letters from the far away land
as if nostalgia needs a secure home
stamped par avion fading,
when calls and e-mails or Skype don't suffice
or stop me from jetting into skies, and I fly

to touch people in photos once young
        I may never see again, I fly
to catch light of the eyes that wrote, they may
        never write again.

        Mumma shelling winter's pea-pods, Pappa trimming
jasmine gone wild after rains, each outgrown
their frames, sepia shadows,
the red swing on verandah
a still life.
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