The Late Christmas Package
You wait at the post office for the package.
The card left in your mailbox doesn’t name the sender
—you’re curious. When you reach the counter,
the worker hands you a box marked:
delicate, fragile, handle with care, but with no
return address. Upon returning home, you consider
tearing it apart; instead, you put it on the top
of the fridge to collect dust. It may be a bomb
and you haven’t the nerve to open
You phone me later to ask if I have
sent it, but my number’s been disconnected.
So, you send an email, but it bounces back.
Your chest tightens, but you’re not
having a heart attack. All the wonderful things
in this world are delivered lacking instructions.
My Daughter After the Womb
Matted with blood, I thought
you’d been mauled. You carried
your frown with hunched shoulders
like a shawl. I thought you were trudging
to a duel—between yourself and you.
The terrible meow, that haunted marrow,
hauled you away. The flow of time,
like an undertow, spilled, and you rowed
against its rising influence only to succumb
to the call of tomorrow. Did my claws
play a role? Did my thrown barrel—
plentiful with insult and downy feather—
roll you into decay? Did my feral calico
bite you on the nape of your neck?
You must be proud of the scars
since you rinsed the dried mud away.
You were endowed with round eyes
and the dull groan of a hollow crypt.
I’ve always been jealous of this.
Sure, it starts with a couple sipping an iced caramel macchiato at a coffee shop, cuddling on the couch munching popcorn, and slow dancing to an upbeat song at the club. One asks a question. If the answer is yes, the reward is a blood diamond or another useless rock. Then, flowers, vows, hugs from family, kiss, lotto numbers. Throw a penny in the fountain—make a wish. Hell, make it a 50-cent piece. Honeymoon, if you’re lucky, mortgage if you like debt and repairs and neighbor dogs barking at six in the morning. You forgot to put out your trash cans last night and the garbage truck has already passed by, and the hall light’s burned out—you stub your toe. O Fortuna’ begins. Now all the lights go out, the phones, not charged, remain black, and something enters—perhaps through an open window, or stuck on the bottom of a shoe, or attached to the junk mail piled on the dining room table. It spreads through the vents, but its odor cannot be detected. You purchase a radon test kit. Everyone has secrets. The first time it appears you make excuses and it vanishes. The next time it hovers overhead while you cuss. The tension builds as the score ends and now one lone violin purrs and eventually squeals. Your eyes adjust. It’s everywhere. Wanted children never arrive or leave too soon while the unwanted multiply. The affair was always there—you were naïve. The bruises, broken promises, and broken ribs are all one has to give. The bills explode your wallet and mailbox. The cancer, diabetes, lower back pain and heart attack are waiting out back behind the shed. You open the front door, stand naked beneath the stars, and imagine another house, another marriage. But that’s the bitch of it—the monster is fair. Something must happen everywhere. So you turn off the movie before it strikes again, but the reel continues to spin. Despite never having read the script, you know the lines and you make it to the end.
I’m going to sit here until he licks my fingers,
trims my nails, and then offers to paint them
—gray or pink—for he owns the nail file
and has that bottle of polish poking out
his back pocket. I’ll wait until he plunges his hands
into my curly black hair, rubs my forehead, gets me
to purr like a cat, and he braids these wild waves
into a river down my back. Until he calls out my name
like it’s the amen at the end of a prayer, and he finally stops
proselytizing, stops reciting the story of David
and how all we need is a fast. Until he lets me
feed him nachos covered in meat, cheese
and black olives, and the crunch of his teeth annoys
me, and I know he’s no longer hungry. Until he lets me
remove my shirt, puts down his bag, and kneels
like a monk at a shrine. See here, see here,
I have lit all the candles and pulled out every tooth
just so I could display the universe on this church pew.
The front of the church is blank—no symbols on the walls,
no banners or signs. Love is an open room,
a sanctuary with the best acoustics. So when I say
those words, the robes and reserved signs will burn in the chalice
—that heavy, back-breaking pewter chalice—and its flame
will be seen blocks away. When the snake sparks and smokes,
everyone will be warmed, and now I’m eating his shed skin.
Let him ask, where do I begin?
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