|Jul/Aug 2012 Poetry|
When my uncle, my mother's brother, bought
a Yaashica camera, we all got dressed.
He called each child to the porch, made us
pose—leaning against the column, the way
he had seen in films. My mother tied
a blue satin ribbon in my hair, made me wear
the white starched frock with frills, but refused
to change her turmeric stained sari,
its edges frayed—her daily kitchen wear.
Nor would she comb her hair or wash her face.
Even when my father asked her to. When he
was done with us on the porch, she invited her
brother to the kitchen, and pointed out
the pot of curdled milk, the skins of onions
on the sink, rotten cabbage leaves.
Thinking this is nothing but art, my uncle clicked.
One after another. My mother broke the stalks of
the green chilies, threw them into the sizzling
My uncle sneezed.
My mother sprinkled spices on the oil—coriander,
cumin, mustard seeds, red chili pepper paste.
My uncle sneezed again—
his sister laughed.
My uncle packed his camera, wrapped
the lens in well-worn towels, and left.
Never to bring it back to our home again.