Testimonies on Paper

Last night, Kevin and I went to the opening reception for “Testimonies on Paper” at the South Asia Institute. It was honestly so cool, to see my poems displayed like this, along with the artwork by Zarina that they were in conversation with. Her piece, “Atlas of My World IV” I find particularly moving — the way the map is block-printed on handmade paper, the river / wall / border (?) running through.

Three of the poets from the exhibit were there (me, Nina Sudhakar, and Ami Kaye), and they had us each read a poem to the guests. I read “Kith and Kin,” and people seemed to like it. My section also includes my poems “Homesick” and “Kin Song.”

The exhibit will be running from now until June (!), and I’d love to hear what you think if you visit. Teachers, take your classes! Friday is free day. 🙂

The South Asia Institute is at 1925 S. Michigan Avenue. You can find more information on the exhibit here: https://www.saichicago.org/exhibition/testimonies-on-paper


Kith And Kin

hair, clothes, and kitchen
redolent with roasted spices
cooking deep into the night
with children and husband asleep
this much unchanged, untranslated

I stand over the pan, stirring
low and slow, singing to amuse
myself — haste would destroy
the spell of memory, consanguinity

coriander cumin fennel fenugreek
in order of decreasing amount
cinnamon cloves cardamom
curry leaves and chili powder

if I have to look up the ingredients
every time, am I insufficiently
authentic? eventually, I will grind
knowledge into my bones

Ammama, could you have guessed
your granddaughter would live
half a world away, would structure
love so differently, would pass your
recipes to a thousand strangers?

in the old days, recipes were hoarded
like gold bangles; a dowry locked
in your mind could not be stolen
now I give them away, scatter them
like kisses on the networked seas

I suspect it would frighten you,
what a daughter might give away
might lose forever. yet perhaps
the world is changing. a woman
may give herself away, undiminished

trust me. what the seas carried
away, they will return; your children’s
children are with you
though at times unrecognizable

bend down your head and breathe
deep, roasting scents tangled in my hair
see — you know me still. some things
come back to you, a thousandfold


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