The Last Block in Little India

This poem won Second place in the 2020 2-Day Poem Contest

Auntie lets lethargy cradle her bones
as she stands beside her stall of mixed
pickles and chutneys. She nods at passersby,
the creased skin of her cheeks like the spine
on a tattered paperback novel, broken
in one too many times. She presses
her thumbnail into the soft flesh
of her thigh as she shifts and waits,
make shapes with the indents;
an auspicious octothorpe, to pass the time.

Bhaia shuffles backwards past her,
rippled Bollywood DVD cases splayed
in his hands, bloated with sweat.
A bootlegging empire poised between
his palms. His youngest sits on a low
curb, keeping an eye on the warped
Tupperware bin full of faded potential,
her future college funds. Kal Ho Naa Ho
winks at her from the top of the pile.
Tomorrow May Never Come. Closing her eyes,
she catches a whiff of eggplant bharta
simmering somewhere in the low-rise behind.
She pretends its meat and potatoes. Sunday stew.
Wonders what it would be like to be Angelina Jolie.

Breathing softly from the carapace
of matted paisley blankets atop
his niece’s futon, Babaji awakes
craving chicken livers with red onion.
His atrophied legs ache all the way
to the marrow, muscle drowning
in the strong vinegar of age. The sky
outside isn’t hazy enough for him.
The air is too sweet. Too comforting.
He told everyone he would return home
to die. A wish his failing legs now laugh at,
barking spasms of pain up to his blanketed thighs.

From two floors above, Preeti cracks
the window open after her evening prayer,
leans out to catch the falling sun and help
it down. Her chuni slips off her head, taken
by a groggy breeze. It flutters down the street,
the old fabric rippling, peristeronic flapping,
a desperation to be free.

Published online July 07 2020.

This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.