NaPoWriMo Day 11: Of my roots

Our optional prompt for today is based on another poem of Elhillo’s, called “Origin Stories.” Like “To Make Use of Water,” this poem struggles to make sense of the distance between the poet’s beginnings, her point of origin, and her present self. Have you ever heard the phrase, “you can’t go home again?” This poem is about that.

Today, taking a leaf from Elhillo’s work, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually? Maybe you are from Vikings and the sea and diet coke and angry gulls in parking lots. Maybe you are from gentle hills and angry mothers and dust disappearing down an unpaved road. And having come from there, where are you now?


My origin poem for today. Writing this was a beautiful experience.

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Of My Roots

I

Of My Roots

I

They said, ‘The heavens wept, the sea rose that night-     the night

of my birth. ‘Dogs barked; eunuchs danced    heralding your arrival’

my father told me; his voice trailing as he remembered the past.

‘You looked like a tadpole, our first born,’ he said, a twinkle in his eye.

I do not know if I remember the welcome in my honor or if it is the

oft repeated past that I hold on to as way to trace my roots.

 

II

A labyrinth of dark corridors, red tiled roofs, coconut trees reaching

the sky          swaying like ghosts                  black, black outside

and me waiting inside        in front of the creaky wooden bathroom

door for Amma to step out, after her evening shower. Grandma,

whom I called ‘Amma,’ my sanctuary        when Mamma left me to

join Papa in a faraway land.      I held on to Amma, so I did not

get lost in that sprawling house with each room bigger than the other   

Amma was old. She would never find me If I lost myself. I had to be

safe until I reached Mamma.  

 .

III

 

Red woolen jacket, matching mittens and warm boots and muffler.

Hot chocolate milk   me sitting on the kitchen counter   sipping and

the sound of Allah-u-Akbar ringing in the new day.   It is time for

school    a siren goes off       ‘Khomeini has taken over. The Shah

has been overthrown.’       There is fire       everywhere    Papa sounds

worried.       ‘We must get out. Quick!’      Mamma throws things in the

suitcase.           And I am back            on the flight to where I came from.

 

IV

The long corridors have gone, and the roof is a heap of tiles. ‘The floods

brought it all down,’      I hear them say        Amma’s waiting for me. The

garden  is        a mound of red mud                I see her smile as I alight from

the taxi. I am happy she is there,       but I want to go back         I do not want

to be here.

 

V

I am screaming into the receiver     the children look on   Mamma is no more.    

Amma cannot hear very well          she says she wants to see the children      

there is something she wants to give them.       She is asking me to return.

 

©SmithaV

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P.C. From the net

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A picture of me with my grandma in that third phase of my life

6 comments

  1. This is beautiful Smitha, and touching. In the first verse I love the contrast between the grand comparisons and the tadpole! The poem has a dreamy quality as though of hazy memories, it has sadness and nostalgia as well as a deep sense of love and connection.

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot Kashiana for your lovely comment. I enjoyed writing it. It felt less like an exercise. I think you’d like ‘legs’ , ‘my husband’s cousin’ and ‘ if I could’ I’m not sure if you had a chance to read them. Would love to know what you think.

      Like

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