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Numbers

Everyone but me adores Sister Asha, our math teacher. Like the other nuns at school, she too wears an apricot sari with a matching blouse, plus a crucifix necklace. I find her too intense, too earnest, both because of what she teaches and how. I sit in her class with trepidation. I don’t want to know the value of X. I don’t care if A and B are traveling from C and D to meet at Z at the speed of Q. I’m fourteen. All I care about is the discomfort I feel in my skin. I don’t have the 24-inch waists of my classmates. My squat feet aren’t meant for three-inch high heels.

I am me—fierce and unafraid—only inside the school library. I’m friends with the numbers on the spines of books. We have ONE library period every week. I yearn for it all remaining days. Sometimes, the librarian, Ms. Radha, lets me check out grown up books. They take me to places real and imaginary, but in all of them, I’m respected...

Letter to Afghanistan

Because the pitch pines have been frozen
all season, they clatter in the dunes,
snap down to the blood sap,
slender and rigid as boys at attention.
In the frigid sand, to move is to break.
Each overlapping wave a shard,
here, tectonic plates of ice crowd the shore.

Yours is a burning earth.
Wind-ground sand, fine as talc,
claims the air, no tolerance
for emptiness. The space in your sleep
where we belong, where our daughter belongs,
is sealed up tight and safe—
too safe to be of any comfort.
We are none of us free from harm...

DEAR SUKI: NUMBER TWELVE

Dear Suki: Mojave Desert, June 7th,
your scorched feet streaked patterns
on my red-sun thighs, but I, who had
always born evidences of rain sinking
like god's pale tears over this desert,
took to dress your smooth obsidian
hair with the entire city at the noon
hour heaved above and around us like
a graveyard. You broached through
the air, into the heat of every second...

Miracles

Whenever I drive by that old, abandoned farmhouse
with the orange daylilies blooming
against the white-chipped siding,
I always wish for planter’s hands--
for a green thumb that could
summon life from the ground
that could revive the apparently dead
with its electrifying touch...
 

My Grandfather is a Lime Tree

He tells her to donate the leg to someone in the church, someone who cannot afford to buy their own. Sitting in the tree’s shade he remarks, “Sometimes I think she doesn’t listen. When the time comes, remind her that I will be whole again.”

He leans towards me and says, “If none of that is true, I want to return as the lime tree.”

After he died, I felt his presence most keenly by the tree. When he sent me to pick limes he used to tell me, “The first tree you plant when you move to a new house is a lime tree. If you have sugar and you have limes, you will always have something to drink.” He forgot to add that you need water too...

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