Calcutta

Inspired by Brown Girl, Bluegrass 

Calcutta 

Capital of West Bengal

Colonial Capital of British india

Also known as Kolkata or Kalikata, for ease of Anglican tongues

Calcutta 

My birthplace

The City of Joy, Food, History And Music

Home of College Street

And Victoria Memorial, a large marble dedication to the usurper, or better known as Queen Victoria

The Indian Museum

Park Street

The birthplace of artists like Tagore

Martyrs like Teresa

And girls, like me.  

Where my grandparents spent their entire lives, raising their two daughters

Where my parents met during their masters program.

The place where they got married. 

Where I was born,

On a cold, January Sunday in the hospital furthest from my mom’s home. 

Currently, the city where my grandparents still live

Where my grandma spends her weekends in the Calcutta Club, playing poker with her friends and enjoying the luxuries of colonial practices the Brits forgot to take back with them

Like well dressed butlers

And being called “ma’am”

And being proud patrons of an elusive “gentleman’s club”

The city where I spent my early childhood

The city where my best friend lives as his father serves in the Army. 

I haven’t visited my home in over three years.

Calcutta, the City of Joy

Amma

This poem is written about my maternal grandmother, I call her Amma. The first few lines are Bengali, the language that we speak. Enjoy!

Baba high court judge chillen. 

Amader Patna bari khoob shundoor chiloo

I wish you could have seen it, Roshu

Our sprawling bungalow in Patna, 

Filled with vines, wild mango trees and dogs. 

Judy the greyhound

Wendy the dachshund

Ma’s pet deer, before it became illegal to own one.

She kept a garden in the back where she grew vegetables.

Of course, she was never the one who cooked them.

There were multiple secret passageways for a little girl to get lost in.

The rain in the monsoon seasons would pitter-patter against my window frame.

The humidity would cause my hair to frizz,

Oh, if only you could have seen it, Roshu. 

Baba commanded respect, his people loved him. 

He stood up for the low wage workers, 

Argued for the little guy

I hope you do the same, Roshu.

The house was full of music, light and colors. 

I wish you could have seen it, Roshu. 

Before, well, everything.

Before the demolition, court cases and family against family. 

I wish you could have seen it, Roshu. 

I know you would have loved it, Roshu. 

Model Minority 

A continuation of my rage towards the general population- Enjoy!

I’ll be can be your best immigrant 

I can speak 3 languages other than English

but never by default 

I’ll share stories of my homeland at parties

but not too often. 

I mean, this is America!

I can laugh at your politically incorrect jokes 

even if they’re at my expense

I’ll bite my mother-tongue

I don’t want to hurt your feelings.

I’ll spare you from the tales of my past,

My trials and tribulations

That brought me here.

Because, after all

isn’t it so much better in America 

than wherever hellhole you came from?

I can hang an American flag on my front door

and pray that no one looks inside. 

Phoenix Girl 

“In order to rise from its own ashes

A

Phoenix

First

Must

Burn”

 Burn

Burn like the soils of my homeland 

Burn like my skin when I would walk outside in July 

Ashes in the sky

Pollution and smoke 

Remnants of the celebration of the Festival of Lights 

Ashes on a pyre 

First

I’m the first daughter to come to America 

I’ll be the first to graduate from an American college

First, a child of my motherland

Then, me. 

-Quote By Octavia Butler

a first kiss

we burned our tongue on hot pavements

in a parking lot, at three pm, ninety degrees outside

i wished that it would burn your taste off

so, i wouldn’t feel it

i tried to cut my lips off

the traitorous pair 

betraying my every wish to stop and run away

my hands need a sawdust bath

my legs could be fine sitting miles away from here

 on a boat to antarctica 

anywhere from here, this body

this mind

this guilt

anywhere would be perfectly suitable

for a shameless girl like me

Memories From June 1st

Maybe for kicks, we’ll dance for ourselves. 

Around the kitchen, while waiting for the pasta water to boil 

For laughs, we’ll sing karaoke to “Build Me Up Buttercup”. 

And maybe tonight, we’ll watch the fireflies in the yard and laugh when my dog tries to eat one. 

in three days, I’ll look back on this evening 

Sitting in a lonely dorm room 

And pray that someone would come and take me back to that moment. 

Religiously Unreligious

They

Shake a fist to the sky

Spit on the grave of a saint

Roll their eyes at the tomfoolery of church bells and altar boys

Blame the institution

Blame the higher power

Use the Lord’s name in vain- but don’t allow His name settle on the top of their tongues

I

Am religiously unreligious, but I fall far from the fallacy

Of violence and shame and general unpleasantness

I say, Let the people have their bread and wine

I’ll sit in the back having mine

Our minds may work differently

And our prayers may go to different ears

But we bleed the same

And live in the cemetery

Of flesh, blood and a pumping heart

S H E L L Y

Shelly 

Two blue lines.

My heart was racing as I checked the test again.

Two. Blue. Lines.

One little head, poking out of the white blanket.

Six letters, S-H-E-L-L-Y. On the gift box label, left on my doorstep,

A gift for the baby, read my neighbor’s scrawly handwriting.

Two syllables, Mama, was Shelly’s first word. 

Fifteen books, I bragged to the moms around me.

Fifteen books and counting, on Shelly’s bookshelf.

I told them Shelly was made for great things.

Three months, the oncologist told us.

Three more months to the end of my daughter’s short life.

Three more months till the evil growing in her head would take over our lives, and end it.

Four candles on the cake. My daughter blew them out, ignoring the dull pain in her head.

10:18 PM, time of death.

2014-2018. Here lies Shelly. 

This poem was featured on Kentucky Arts Council’s Facebook page to celebrate Kentucky Writer’s Day. Check it out!

https://fb.watch/5w8_eox-1R/

Me Without An Idea

Me without an idea

An idea without a thought

A thought without a brain

A brain without a human

A human without a home

A home without a fireplace

A fireplace without wood

Wood without trees

Trees without plants

Plants without the sun

The sun without the day

The day without night

The night without stars

The stars without a sky

A sky without clouds

Clouds without rain

Rain without grass

Grass without cows

Cows without milk

Milk without cats

A cat without a dog

A dog without bones

Bones without a body

A body without a home

A home with me

And me with no time.

-Zoya