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Class Lessons

Poetry & Prose | April 2, 2018

 

He took the desk next to me wearing lumpy sweater, stream-of-consciousness confidence. My jet-lagged brain coiled, laughing to the metronome of practiced performance. The sharpness of his lips carved me carelessly like leftover Thanksgiving Turkey teetering liminal between freezer and the Great American Dumpster.

 

Why did he walk away and return with a poem scribbled on left hand? Was it there before?

 

White Boy #6, it has been 4 years since WhiteBoyEyes could tremble this heart.

 

*          *          *

 

White Boy #1. You left notes under my door every night. We sat on fall evenings, watching leaf acrobatics, whispering thought slices till stars snored us into silence apart – only in sleep. I had just moved from India. White Girls saw meaning. How could I know you saw none? You educated me late: White Boys only like White&Asian, you lectured in WhiteBoyGeography, Indian is not Asian.

 

And then your words poured – torrents of scorn, cyclones of eyes rolling. I forgot how to love my

 

monsoon (noun):

June mango carves her riverscapes

,water pounding sun-soaked air,

across waxy green skin and aroma

of aged eighth-hand book, jasmine pirouette

,capricious droplets sieving time,

splay on terracotta veranda, mist

salves ginger chai scalded tongue,

cotton kurta dampening summer-sweet sweat

receding tidelines and necklines and bodylines

,cloud edges seaming ephemeral worlds,

as we pretend to run for cover,

moving woman bodies through Sea of the Sky,

in ways forbidden by Men of the Earth.

 

White Boy #1, you almost taught me to forget the موسم.

 

White Boy #2. We were climbing a mountain with White Boy #1. He asked me a question about Gandhi. He asked me to come speak with him in the shed [alone]. White girls told me it meant nothing. You taught me late. You wanted the White Girls and White Boys to know you could be “stable” – And I,

Fresh-off-boat Fresh-woman == deductive proof

 

White Boy #3. You told me I was like a summer shower. You listened eloquently, spoke mutely. You drenched me in Monsoon. Poblano wildfire like skinny dipping in star-clad polka dot stillness. White Girls told me it meant nothing. So you disappeared. When the summer came, you parted oceans of heat in search of distant showers, but

White Boy 1 + 2 = dark clouds heave tearless

 

White Boy #4. Narrow green eyes that a green heart could caress in cracks of day and dream, taught me I suffered “model minority” remedied by strict regimen of self-violence to sanitize (sanskritize) terracotta verandas, mildewed books, cotton-drenched clandestine-dances. Your woke drowsy eyes, colorblind brushloose fingers appraised an empty canvas to paint [white] pain[t] over a lifetime and more of words of worlds, American couldn’t codify, categorize, class—

தஞ்சை நால்வர் – శంకరాభరణం

మనవి చేకొన…

నిను nera nani nanura nika muka madi lodu…

ఇప్పుడు madi భ్రమిసి विरह mano सगर mulo mukunchi teno chunnadhi

पंच sharudu vidu vanchi sharankunagu minchina velalo వంచన letiki…

–ify, translate tales&tragedies of Exotic Lands to your imperi(al)ous dictionaries. Like a servant of the Company[1],

you partition homes and hearts,

you may footnote&feast,

and shit,

as you please Good Sir.

 

White Boy #5. You melted my newly furrowed brow in giggles. You whispered away fear.

It slipped through my fingers before I could hold it dear

(er than you).

You told me #1, #2, maybe 3, definitely 4 – all wrong.

White Girls said this meant everything.

one day you made tea,

one day you wrote a letter,

one day you picked a flower,

Fingers never grazed.

Hearts touched unspoken.

I looked for popcorn and other greasy distractions

in the intermissions between you,

your little puns echoing between

heartcrevice&mindcliff,

until I saw plateau to horizon and

ran within,

free

 

 

Fall.

 

You taught me my English can’t speak WhiteBoyLove. Fingers hadn’t grazed. How could hearts touch?

——breaks break wider

————————cliffs gorge deeper

——————————————–you were drunk. You put chiseled blazer on Guilt-Lumpy wool sweater, looked in the mirror, lifted chin, steeled gaze:

“You should go back to India. You will find more people who can Like you there.”

 

Monsoon departed.

Summer showers drowned.

Poblano combusted.

Green eyes darted.

Red leaves buried.

Pink sky broke.

Yellow urine passed past selfs,

Guilt-Free.

Dawned lumpy sweater.

You (a)woke.

 

I woke too, to unsing WhiteGirlChorus, unspeak WhiteBoyLove. Years passed. I didn’t go back.

 

Monsoon returned. Summer showers cooled. And in dusty, invisible-rickshaw polkadot गली gullies of American life, I found another and others who spoke in coiled, silent syllables, curdled in fermented glances, like the cream of दही. Words wrought dense in mazes of meaning, to lose self until we found a chanced-upon heart. You made me unmemory The White Boys.

 

White Boy #6. And then, when your incandescent eyes stayed a moment too long

——You are lovely

————————fragile words, gaze?

——————————————–lock+key rusted into oblivion

Snaps.

heartquiver

Handcuffed.

(Left-hand poem was for White-Girl-with-Purple/Pink/Turqouise-Hair #32.)

 

 

White Boy #6, I’m just like you. I plead guilty. You wear yours in sweaterlumps, I wear mine in farawayprints.

 

Maybe someday, fight unfinished, sweaterlumps unhealed, you will return to old canvases to peel past pain(t) and chance upon other human organs imprisoned in skin –

like kidneys?

Maybe someday, when fatigued of other foreign languages like Arabic and ____ism and Empathy, you will still have time to be taught –

syllables of human heart

coiled, curdled, in Monsoon waiting

behind bars

beyond Class Lessons.

[1] The East India Company