crossing water

February 16, 2007

I ask the man for cigarettes
(these are behind the counter, like guns
or gold), and he passes them to me
as smoothly as a gust.

At home, I soak the bread
and cut the fat into squares
just so, just so, like the stories for children.
Her voice again.

Her son is Indian;
he is American now, like his father. I am Siddi. I am rab
when love lays me
over a jaded palate, sweet and attentive.

They let me mind the bar now,
because the oak beams frame my face
and bring the girls in. The girls

are kind. They say
that I am clever and brave.
They giggle with me
too much. I tell them
that I was never brave, except once

as a boy crossing water
in a storm: I did not cry
till later. If my mother could see me
she might laugh, or worse.

Ah, they float here too, these crisp
cool lillies. The world is so simple;
birds shimmer with the thrill

of exposure. I am alone in the garden
without a coat. A little longer
for their charms. I can stand the cold
while they peck their fill.

*The Siddi were Ashanti tribespeople taken as slaves from West Africa to India, either recently or in the middle ages. They became naturalised citizens.

*Rab is Indian treacle.

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