Everything and Nothing

First Encounters With Makeup

“Mom, today I met a girl who blushes without blushing.”

A girl in my class came in to school with pink cheeks. She said she’d had a dance recital and her mother had let her keep the makeup on. I personally thought she was embarrassed, because I noticed that her eyebrows were brown and no longer matched her blonde hair. I assumed she’d accidentally fallen face-first into a box of hair dye. Poor kid! But when I asked her why she was embarrassed, she actually looked surprised–she said “I’m not blushing… it’s the blush.” I did not understand.

I continue to contemplate her response as I stack pancakes in the center of my plate. Breakfast for dinner, because mom is tired and I’m not complaining. I carry my well balanced meal–hah!–to the table and reach for the ground cinnamon. I lean my face unnecessarily close to the plate, and the fan in the corner of the room blows a fine dusting of brown powder onto my cheeks and across the bridge of my nose. Instant, warm, sweet freckles.

My mom smiles at me as she flips more pancakes at the stove. “Cute” she says. My dad pats me fondly on the head when he comes home from the office. I now freckle myself every morning before school. The not-blushing-blush girl asks me for tips.



Rhymes on a Rainy Day

I want to be my mother’s daughter.
The kind that makes her so proud that she doesn’t resent her own father.
But sometimes I wonder, why bother?
I’m sure the damage has been done
And that nothing has been won.
So why push any farther?

Because I want to be her redemption.
Her lemonade on a summer day,
Her new Bengay, her creme brûlée!!
To show her just how much she’s made
With the little that he gave.

But if I only live for her
And no one else lives just for me
Then I’m as empty as can be.
… And some think that empty means free
But that’s not how it should be.
I should be free to just be ME.
That’s not me preaching….
That’s my plea.

And he wrapped all of his fingers around just one of mine

There lies a baby, naked and giggling in the grass.
A beautiful gray-eyed baby,
Naked in the grass.
In his hand, he holds a dandelion.
The plumage  shakes as his body bounces.
The wispy seeds make their soft descent.

There lies a baby, naked and giggling in the grass.
Though his eyes squint and his body shakes,
He does not break his gaze.
What is it that brings him such pleasure? 
Only when I stop and lie in the grass with him
Do I see it:

There is an oak sapling growing through a sidewalk crack.

Fiber One

This cereal looks like shit.
Literally, it looks like shit.
Brown lumps and specks wallowing in a shallow shit-tinted pool.
Why do you tolerate such a repulsive high fiber concoction?
Why is the world so cruel that the only way you are able to shit daily is if you eat shit daily?


Sunrise Sunset

She is thirteen and electric, a live wire sparking against concrete.  Her tongue unfurls around the hard stone of a curse word, and though she is catching fire so quickly it is hard to tell what is still pink skin and what has charred, the heat is not yet burning your fingers wrapped tightly in a circle around her wrist.  Five years ago, you were driving her to ballet lessons on Monday and Wednesday nights; you were bandaging her blistered toes. Overnight, her breasts have inflated, the ball of her belly has migrated north and south, spreading her hips apart like scissors.  Nothing about her is the same.  You have turned your head and blinked at the wrong second, and today, you recognize her only by her shadow; her eyes have shaded with understanding.  Today, sitting across the table from her, watching her, you are afraid for the first time.  You can see that the path she will follow will be scattered with darkened moons and heartaches.  That there will be ditches into which she will climb, lay down, and wait to die.  She will be fierce, yes, and unexpected, but for the next couple of years, she will also be a stranger that you will know like you know the beating of your heart, butterfly in your ribs, and you will turn her over in your fingers like a coin, searching for a seam.


My grandpa is making roti
He is sitting on the ground, in the sun, his dhoti is bunched around his knees
Billowing whiteness, set ablaze by the morning light
He’s floating on a cloud
A few simple ingredients–flour, water, a pinch of salt, a dribble of oil
He adds them one by one, with a practiced eye, to the worn steel bowl tucked between his legs
He pulls and kneads,
pulls and kneads.
Lovingly. Firmly.
The dough comes together, dry into wet into dry
Over and over, round and round in the same bowl that has birthed hundreds of rotis for hundreds of hungry mouths.
I notice a piece of lighter dough,
still flecked with flour, stretching and becoming part of the whole,
folding in on itself.  “Where did that piece go?” I ask.
kahin bhi nahin” he answers. “It didn’t go anywhere.”
He smiles through wrinkles, chuckles are lost in whiskers
I pretend not to understand,
but I get it. I know what it’s like
to be nowhere.