Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer in India, 1999

by Neha Parthasarathy

Despite your insistence that I eat
chick peas smothered in fenugreek and
green chili powder,
            all I craved
that summer were pickles.

American—Dill pickles, sour, thick
            and crunchy as I
imagined tree trunks to be. I relied
on them—a reminder of the
            easy life waiting for me—
                        only months away.

I’m sure you had no sympathy; you
            were raised to pity no one,
            the easy life, not
something you pined for, as I did.
            More a stone temple
than my cousin.

To you, I was too fresh,
too rosy-eyed,
                        too American.

            after you cleaned the dishes
reeking of turmeric and curry powder,
            you asked me questions—a
private game that I never quite

Are you Britney Spears? I shook my head
no, and you laughed.
            Sinister, and sad,
I can’t associate anything
            with that sound
except your face—only 19, but
                        etched with wrinkles.

Still, I have wondered when you laughed,
             why I giggled too, wiping
mosquito skeletons off my ankles,
            too annoyed
to whisper condolences, while you
            cleaned up
the bodies—mouthing prayers
            under your breath.

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