beg, bhindi. sing for light and water.
first the sun’s laughter arrested at the building’s
edge like a wish on an eyelash. then the rain
lobbied by cement lofts and tin roofs so what
trickles down is the logic of water, not its kiss.

the truth is, bhindi. a mock of growbags
and pots with holes in them. my grandma
gave my mother fifteen seeds out of which
four sprouted and one of them became
the jaggery of her pride, bhindi of her eye.

now you lie like a knot of phlegm and snot
when a garden’s dream sneezed in its mask.
how small it all is relative to grandma’s garden
where the seeds came from and how small that was
when held against the memory of the field
that never recovered from ockhi’s tears.

no subsidized pesticide able to sign the soil
with an earthworm’s calligraphy. the truth is
bhindi. i envy the way my mother doted on you
the way she conducted your shower, namakarana
rice ceremony, wrote om on your green tongue
all in the duration of one phone call to grandma.

the truth is, bhindi. both my parents were
presumed dead on arrival. my friend is a triplet
who was a quadruplet in the womb. my neighbors
could recreate the city by tracing lines between
the temples and fertility clinics they’ve been pilgrims to.

my grandpa had even started digging a grave
in the wall. i beg, bhindi. keep going, carry on.
as you crumple into a strangled brown scream
let me tell you how abruptly she cut the call
when she realized that eleven hadn’t sprouted.
i beg you to keep singing, now that you know.

first published in Usawa