local_library Genealogy

by Preeti Vangani

Published in Issue No. 249 ~ February, 2018

I come from a long line of short falls and of the fallen I befall

my mother’s absence like crashing into sharp corners of one’s own

bed in darkness, my body is a collage made of all my little toes,

swollen and rough like ginger, I come from my mother’s mother

Last seen falling off the edge of her balcony, or did she jump

How everything changes when a door is gone, some conjure

Alzheimer’s, some depression and to my Tinder date I say

I come from a family of very strong women, I keep on running

into the alleyways of my arthritic folds and whisper to the unnatural

bends of my elbows and knuckles, a song I sing when I am writing

off monsters. When I was one, they say I was unscathed by a fall

from a high bed, the thud of my skull, against our floral floor tile

breaking my grandma’s nap. In the hospital she had to shake my head

thrice yes and thrice no to force a cry. I hide myself in the clench

of my jaw and talk about pain like the Brits about weather. My pain

is a moving target, the bureau’s forecast about yesterday – overcalled,

off, formulaic. I believe all the versions of who I could become: a history

teacher, a saree folder, the sizzle of rye in oil, the ruffle of a pashmina shawl

passing through a finger ring, the inside of my mother’s palm. I am alive

in the refrain of the thousand soul songs I have memorized, never sung to,

never sung for. I fall often like the unsure wind over a teenage girl’s petal

tally of loves/loves me not. I hanker for the whiff of love like sweet and spicy

mango pickle lingering on my tongue, swallowed hole, each of my loves

a raw fruit amply marinated in a May sun, preserved on a forgotten shelf.

I want to crush strawberries in the face of the man who taught me

cynicism. I sleep well only in motion and wake up often once my home

is a blur over my shoulder. I slumber in a city of flyovers, dying

under its own weight, on the blues I fall like a torrential

downpour until you wonder who’s the real boss in the metropolitan

of my heart. I rest then in the slight joy of a nap: pure proof

that happiness is short lived. I am in the fingerprints of the butter

tray licked clean when ma was asleep. I think myself a realistic

Krishna, a compulsive flirt masquerading as god, singing songs

when logic fails reason fails fate fails prayer fails my mother’s prayer

beads. In my room, before the window there was an ironing table, hot steam

straightening out weary shirt collars. Between the tongue creases of five

languages known to me, I learnt to swear from my father and I fell.

The only daughter of his name, my name is Sanskrit for pleasure, joy,

beautiful and all the bloody words a poem should never engrave

I come from bare walls peeling with the desire to hide their flaws

with pieces of art

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Preeti Vangani is an Indian writer and currently an MFA candidate at University of San Francisco. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Bombay Review, Public Pool, Juked, Lines+Stars and Knicknackery. She has performed her poems across India, New York, Chicago and more recently at local San Francisco events including Voz Sin Tinta and Kearny Street Workshop