Excerpts > Spring 2003

Prima Venkateswaran


I had imagined the drama of my parents’ separation:
suitcases stuffed with mother’s saris, my dresses,
tattered Tamil magazines, silverware, and photos
lined up at the door; mother had sent the maid
to fetch the taxi. Soon we were on a train, speeding
to grandma’s. At every episode, I changed the ending.
In each story mother had the last word,
while father sulked behind a locked door.
The future belonged in parental litanies, not
in my vocabulary inked with my heart’s hell.
I didn’t know loss weighed like a gold coin
in the bottom of your chest. Nor had I seen
the battleground smeared with women’s stories.
I lived in the dramatic moment, where vengeance
triumphed. Heroes and victims had definable faces.

Each time I pressed her to smash the invisible walls,
the treatises on femaleness became palpable in the air
we breathed—the letters rose up sternly, subduing
our bold eyes with their dazzle. One banner read kadamai,
duty, another read nanri, gratitude.

Mother sighed, you’re right. Be a darling and
take the clothes to the laundry on your way to school.

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