Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)

Two Poems

by Mia Ayumi Malhotra

The Missionaries' Daughter

You who called my mother, who called my father,
but did not call me, you who ruptured the sky,

who swallowed the mountain where at age three
I pointed & said that's where my best friend lives

no one knows him but me; you who fashioned a world
from red dust and clay, lulled me to sleep

with the hum of roosters, who watched me dream
of centipedes woven thick and shining

into the braids of my mother's bread—
do you remember the buffalo, nose run through

with rope, the smell of urine in my mother's shoes?
The shuffle of the beggar as he walked off

with them, the boy who slipped the jade
bracelets onto my wrist, one by one,

unwinding the flowered vine & saying I love you?  


I sang it south, sang in snarly riffs
of water and flat-bottomed boats

seduced by the suck of muddy delta
down the region's flat back.  I sang

its waters, spiked with catfish
roaming the riverbed—whiskered,

slick, muscling through currents,
bodies rumored four men thick.  

I sang the flash of bright flags
tied to oars, the dip and skim

of paddles and fearsome naga
carved in the boat's helm.  

I sang the crowd, its frenzy and push—
pickpockets with flashing fingers,

monks with flat feet and shaved
folds of skin gathered at base of neck.  

Though dust rose in a rust-coloured haze,
silted lips and throat— sing, sing.


You who rendered and left
           me to wander    where
                       have you hidden yourself

I want to know the colour
             of your tongue    how it flexes
 in your mouth
             the way of your lips

Two Lovers Take Their Tea

like tea leaves
in a stirred pot,
anger leaves
a bitter taste
in the mouth,
we exchange
before dawn.
Our laughter
unfolds like
the camellia's
painted face,
like the sound
of tea bowls
in the street.
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