Wednesday, September 1, 2021


moving forward
constantly moving forward
thinking about the point of it all
are we doing the right thing? am I?

sitting in the now has its rewards
but you need to get up some time
or you'll be sitting in your own filth

if only I were one- maybe two-dimensional
and had a different set of concerns 

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Monsoon

The day was gray, warm and dust dry in anticipation. The monsoon rains were late this year. He looked up at the pregnant clouds in the sky from the flat stone rooftop – the lowering sun cast a red glow behind the grayness. The water would soon pour down, as if a bucket had been tipped over. Children would appear on rooftops – playing and dancing. The steamy rain would come down so fast there would be no time for run off. The dust would churn into mud. The drains and gutters would be flooded within moments. The streets would pool to waist level within minutes. And, just as suddenly as it had started, it would be over. The water would eventually drain away… leaving a mess behind. He had loved the monsoon rains since he was a child himself, and wanted to live to see more.


He slipped into the first room of the house. He sat down in his mother’s old chair. God. This is where she wanted me to live out my life? Sitting on the floor all day until my back and knees ached, rubber cementing leather soles to uppers, painting designs and stitching toe loops for women’s sandals. God, the monotony. It makes me sick.
The room was almost empty now. There was only a chair, a cot and two carefully tended picture frames above the opposite doorway – one of his dead father with a rotting garland of jasmine draped across it, and one of a painting of the God Shiva, the destroyer, with fresh sandalwood paste rubbed on the glass over the forehead. At times, Nitin did feel guilty for not caring more about his father who died when he was a baby. 
Nitin unwrapped a triangle of silver foil he pulled from his shirt pocket. He loved the taste of paan; the pungent leaf wrapping equally pungent spices. He slipped it into his mouth to chew – a meditative ritual like taking tea; it must be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The red juice spread its stain in his mouth. 
He looked around the room. The workstations were gone. The shoe materials were gone. The calendars were gone. Every inch of peeling sky blue paint, and beneath the ragged gaps, peeling old pasted flyers and movie posters were visible. No need to track distribution now. He had sold the business piece by piece, as he needed the money for gambling, for cigarettes and for treating his friends to paan at the nearby stand. All he had left was the house, his wife, and his life. 
“Nitin?” Sushma was calling from the kitchen. He smiled just hearing her voice but wanted to relax a while longer.
“Nitin? Are you coming? Food is ready.”
“Nitin!” Sushma called with annoyance.
A fire blazed in his eyes as he stood up. He walked across the stone floor, through the doorway, under the picture of his father and Lord Shiva – his left hand deftly taking the belt hanging from a nail just inside the next room. He looped the leather end around his fist as he strode through the bedroom in the middle, and into the last room of the house in a straight line. Sushma was squatting on her haunches on the floor in front of the propane stove, her simple printed cotton sari gathered between her legs. He entered, still chewing, arm rising back, just as the last chapatti finished cooking. She had a stainless steel platter with food already set out for him. She had just switched off the gas and put the last chapatti, still warm, on his plate when the buckle end of the belt caught the back of her head. 
He was whipping her with the buckle on her back, on her waist, on her legs. Sushma stood up trying to avoid the blows by instinct. He toppled over his plate and his food and lashed at her a few more times.
“Mother is coming! Mother is coming soon! Please…”
“You need to eat early…”
“You’ll eat again when mother comes, with mother!…” 
Still he continued to hit her, and still she pleaded, “Mother is coming… Nitin… It’s okay. She will help.”
He stopped for a moment, chewing his paan as his rage ebbed. When the red faded from his sight, he knew she was right. Still, she needed to learn it was never acceptable for her to use such a tone with him, her husband. He stood and waited, dropped the belt wrapped around his fist, chewing, as she bent down to clean the splattered food. 
Eventually she wiped out his plate and pulled out the covered vessels of food from under the stone shelter to serve his food again. He sat down, finishing his paan and began to eat. He leaned over to caress her tear-streaked face. 
“Mother is coming soon. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. You’ll see.” She moved closer to him and held his head to her chest as he cried.  


It was 2:15am when the rickshaw motor sputtered in the courtyard. Sushma was up first. She went to unlock the door and help bring her mother-in-law’s suitcases into the house. Nitin came in as she dragged the last one into the empty room next to the cot and chair. His eyes were still burning with hot, dry sleep. He sat on the cot and waited for his mother to pay the rickshaw. He watched her in the light as she approached the door wondering what changes America had made on her in the past year. 
At 83, she still wore the white cotton sari of a widow. Her white hair was pulled severely into a bun at the back of her head – not tight enough to pull the folds of sagging and wrinkled skin smooth. She looked as she always had, as if she was melting back into the earth; the skin and fat on the underside of her arm, her face, the fold of her stomach showing from the drape of the sari – all dripping toward the ground. Her eyes that used to be brown were now grey blue with the weariness and heaviness of the trials of her life, magnified many times by her glasses. Looking into them, he questioned her right to be head of the household and family when his father died. If his father had lived longer, maybe his life would have been different. 
Nitin doubted very much that she ever stopped chewing her toothless gums, her mouth constantly working at nothing in it. As she stepped over the threshold, Sushma rushed to touch her feet for a blessing and to show respect, then went into the kitchen to heat some food and to make some chai for her mother-in-law and Nitin. In uncomfortable silence they sat together on the floor and ate, mother and son. He was losing patience. 
Later, they came into the sitting room again. She arranged herself on the cot directly, pulling one knee up to her chest, her foot on the cushion, holding her ankle… her mouth still working. Sushma stood in the doorway below the pictures of her dead father in law and Shiva as Nitin sat down across from his mother in the low easy chair. He couldn’t wait anymore.
“Did you bring the money?” 
She chewed a couple of times, paused and lisped, “No. I told them, no. They work hard for their money and they need it. What have you done?”
He felt the burning fear rising in his body. His heart was beating in his ears. 
“Ma, you don’t underst-”
“I do understand…” She glanced over at her daughter-in-law who was cradling the side of her head and trying to wipe away traces of blood as she left the room. 
“It’s enough.” She declared. 
Nitin saw the bulge of her keys tucked into her blouse. She no longer lived here yet she still held the keys to her trunks on the loft. They should have been given to Sushma. He sensed she had some business with the trunks. Whatever it was, he decided right then, he would have it. 
He let the burning fear, shame and guilt guide him across the room. She looked up into his face as he came closer. That she had no fear further angered him. 
Nitin grabbed at her blouse and ripped the keys out. She followed him, pleading into the bedroom. He vaguely heard her through the rush in his ears. Sushma hearing the commotion entered the room to see Nitin climbing up the ladder to the loft. In his determination, he shook his mother’s grasp, inadvertently shoving her and making her tumble. 
The trunks were coated in dust. His mother’s trunk with the steel bands was kept separate from the others, so he knew exactly where to go. Nitin fumbled with the key in the lock and finally heard it click open.  
The contents were wrapped in pieces of bed sheet. Nitin tossed the ends of the sheet aside and saw bank deeds and a largish framed picture of a strange man. He put these aside and rifled through the rest, finding his mother’s gold wedding jewelry – heirlooms passed down to her by both her own mother and mother-in-law. He found ancient, heavy brocade silks embroidered with 22k gold, enough to cover his debts once sold. He found the papers of ownership for the mansion and land in Pakistan, abandoned in the 1947 Partition. He had only heard stories of the respect and wealth his family had had before they left it behind. They had been respected; they had been WEALTHY. Yet, these papers were worthless to him now; the land was forever lost to him and the family now. As the rushing noise in his ears ebbed, he could hear his mother gasping for breath below. 
“Bring me the papers… Nitin… the papers.” Still, his mother’s raspy voice didn’t register.  
His mother had collapsed on the floor and was trying to breathe. Sushma stood by, scared to move. Nitin sat beside his mother and cradled her fragile head in his lap, the papers on the floor beside him. He tenderly removed her glasses. He motioned to his wife to bring him his pen as he stroked his mother's forehead. Methodically, he broke the pen. He rubbed and smeared the blue ink on his mother's thumb before he pressed it to the paper–her signature. 
"You have taken what I came to give you," she whispered.
Thunder and lightning cracked the dark sky as a tear slowly stained a wet path from the corner of her eye, across her temple and into her hair. She exhaled–her son's hand covering her mouth and nose to be sure it was her last breath. 


The clouds spilled the monsoon rain but there was no joy this time. The dust churned into mud. The drains and gutters flooded. The streets pooled to waist level within minutes. And, just as suddenly as it had begun, it ended. The water would eventually drain away… leaving a mess behind. He had loved the monsoon rains since he was a child…  

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Love Song

Your voice resonates 
compelling me 
to leap into your arms
to wrap my legs around your waist, and grasp your shoulders, 
to deeply and thoroughly taste your kiss
When you see me, if you don’t love me, don’t say my name, don’t hold me in your gaze, and don’t come after me

Animal fights in trees and on fences
Sounds like one got away, but it also sounded bloody and wound inflicting
I so wish I could find and help the wounded one(s)
At least I can allow my own heart to heal
I am not afraid

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Adventures after Nightfall

Night. I have to turn my back on the sidewalk to load my bags in the passenger seat of my car. A perhaps emotionally disturbed man who might be homeless, who might be mentally impaired, or who might be on drugs tries approaching me from behind. I tell him, “I’m busy, have a good night.” He gets up close behind me. I don’t know what he’s capable of, but my hands, arms, elbows, and body are not in position to fight in any way. I am alarmed and frightened so I raise my voice over my shoulder, “BACK OFF, NOW!” He moves away, which is promising, but he hovers close saying something I can’t make out because he’s mumbling and because my ears are ringing with adrenaline and I’m about to disassociate in fear + anger. Time has slowed down and I’m taking in every piece of information and analyzing it. There’s good lighting, I’m near the front of a grocery store, there’s likely a camera, but the goal is to stop whatever this is from going down in the first place because I don’t want to deal with police reports or hospital bills, and I would have to muster the energy to do all that and heal by myself all while I hear criticisms about being a single female because that (and the bad behaviors, inabilities, and fragilities of former and would-be partners) is something I’m blamed for too. He comes back close and reaches past me and drops something on the hood of my car—a notebook that I might in another situation be curious about, but yes, he’s close enough and tall enough to stand behind me, trapping me and reaching past me and over the open door of my car to drop this notebook on the hood and I’m trying to avoid smelling him because I’m afraid of what I might learn from that. I turn around to face him using some sort of move I know from salsa and garba dancing. I’m still trapped by the open passenger side door, but am prepared to defend myself in whatever way I might. Mental inventory: slightly impaired still-healing right ankle, somewhat stable block heel sandals, and a skirt limiting my range of motion that unfortunately won’t rip but that I can hike up to mid-thigh so I can kick after a throat punch—lucky that I parked close enough that I’m loading the car while standing on the curb instead of standing in the gutter. I don’t want to escalate to physical yet, so I use the other effective tools I have, my voice, volume, tone, and alarming/aggressive word choice. I look him in the eye and pronounce, “BACK OFF, I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU EAT YOUR OWN EFFIN EYEBALLS!!!” This works. Shocked, he shuffles away. 

As I close the door, toss the notebook off my hood, and deliberate my steps to the driver side, aware that I can’t discreetly lock my passenger door yet and he’s not far away enough, I’m livid that this happened. I would have preferred to be kind, but he scared the S out of me. THIS is not the way to approach a female at night and it’s not my job to teach this. 

Side note: color doesn’t matter in this and similar situations. Yes, he was white. Yes, I’m flippin curious about that notebook.

Sunday, March 31, 2019



I chose the pink cotton dress, woven cotton with cream lace.
After the party, he didn’t want to help me clean, he didn’t want me to clean in the morning, and there was no one else coming to help. So, I stayed up until 4:30am clearing, washing, and putting away the impromptu dinner party—he had decided to bring eight people home for dinner at the last minute. I cooked and hosted. No one spoke to me. I was a servant. But the townhouse was clean and when the light streamed through the high windows, I picked the pink cotton dress to bed. That clean home was the last moment of peace I remembered before I left.

I chose the three quarters length, white satin slip.
The mouthy staircase wound into the living room and I slipped from the living room into the sunlight on the vine garden patio. Just back from swimming with seals and colorful fish, the night impossibly sultry… romantic… the night sky beautiful beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.

I chose the flower-purple chemise.
A peacock was resting in my window when I woke. The lavender rooftops and the gardens, the mist on the ground that gave the townspeople magical properties so that they would float past the mango tree. This was after diving among the coral reefs.

I chose the flowy blue cotton and silk with little flowers.
Whitewashed walls and a small flower mural. Mexican tiles and warm air. Sipping tea and looking over my garden. Fruit, cheese, nuts, and bread. This was after ATV-riding to the lighthouse where I could see the Pacific blending into the sea.

I felt like I was glowing from within. I felt loved by the world, by the earth, purely loved.

Every beach, every stroll down a foreign street, every encounter with nature and animals, every bit of happiness and life and joy seemed like stolen moments. These were moments that I should not have had, that I was never given, and no one expected me to have, certainly not my mother, my grandmother, or my great grandmother, and beyond.

Maybe I recognized then as I know now that no one wanted me to have these moments. I’d stroll with… not quite a sense of ownership and belonging, but one of confidence and discovery. Maybe a person needs to be naïve to experience novelty in the world.

I’ve had my share, but like an addict I couldn’t stop craving more… more life. Then I discovered that sometimes life changes… the light becomes not as bright, the water not as sweet. I was left wondering whether I’d feel it course through me again. I don’t know how to stop wanting and wanting and wanting more.


There was a time when I wasn’t able to sleep for three or four nights. One played the guitar ever so softly and gently until I fell asleep. A personal lullaby that I would recognize if I ever heard it again. If I ever heard it again.

There was a time when I was pulled to the inside and away from the curb, to be protected by another.

A time when I was shivering in the cold. I was held to keep warm and kissed on the forehead by yet another.

I was held once while I cried, until I finished crying about life. It was 25 years later than it should have been, but it finally was. 

A jacket offered, a motorcycle ride while wearing a dress, photo shoots, songs and poetry composed about me, fiction written with me in mind… yet…

Yet, who will remember me when I’m gone? My second death will be the same as my first.


I used to want more first kisses. Now, I want one last first kiss. Maybe I already know his initials, maybe it’s wishful thinking. I used to want to keep traveling and bouncing from place to place. Now, I want to build a home.


Friday, August 18, 2017

To My Ex Husband on Hitler, Slavery/White Supremacy, and Misogyny

To My Ex Husband on Hitler, Slavery/White Supremacy, and Misogyny:

Remember that time when we went to your [Indian] coworker’s house for dinner and he started talking about the virtues of Hitler and what a great leader he was and he kept on and on about the guy and I looked around the room wondering who was going to speak up first and realized the other 7 people were not born and raised here so I started glancing at the corners of the ceilings the lines the walls made where they met each other and the ceiling and realized no one was going to say anything at all because what they didn’t get it or because they didn’t care or because they were tolerant of intolerance so I said “I’m born and raised here and it is deeply disturbing to hear what you’re saying” and he told me I was welcome to leave and I said that there’s this thing I understand about Indian culture that guests are supposed to be treated well and I merely wanted a subject change thank-you-very-much and the subject changed and when we left you told me that everyone has a right to their opinion that he was a poor farm guy who made it all the way to California and I didn’t say anything to you about that but I didn’t give a crap what his background is or was because I had a right to my point of view also then you began to chastise me on the ride home in the car and then to ignore me for two weeks when I KNOW I HAD to say something AND

Remember that time when you took me to Stone Mountain and couldn’t quite fathom why I felt like I was shrinking inside my skin when it slowly dawned on me that the place was a monument to slavery and we were THE ONLY BROWN PEOPLE THERE and no one would talk to us much less look at us and I wanted to get out as soon as possible and tried to explain to you that this was not a good place for us to be and I don’t care about the craftsmanship nor that the guy who did it did it because he was fired from the making of Mt. Rushmore I just wanted to get out and you expressed your deep resentment toward me because you didn’t understand that the little museum shop was glorifying the days of slavery and “whitewashing” the experience of slaves and you were a complete dick to me?

Yeah. I do.

F You

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On Desire

I desire
       every inch
              of you.

Your breath on my lips,

        the taste of  
your sweet sweat on my tongue,

your voice
       whispering in my hair

your fingertips 
       tracing the lines of my face

your smile above me

the smell of our sex

you pulsing in my blood
 through every vein.  

You’ve made me religious,

for it is now that I understand:

is the flesh;

is the heart

that desires what might be given,

but what can-not be taken.