Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

in this language unknown
but familiar: Urdu, rising soft, like

these damp whorls of hairspray
that fill the air briefly, then disappear

like those West Texas summers
your parents spent poolside, nights

your body was a shadow quickening
water, its new flesh unaware of its own

indecency. Nights ghazals sieved
through scuffed speakers, & in Urdu,

Ghulam Ali sang, chupke, chupke,
raat, deen—quietly, quietly, night & day—

as water darkens between your legs
scissoring back & forth. Already you had

begun to learn longing's strange
and famished lessons—assu bahana yaad

Issue 4 | Winter 2012

hai, Ghulam Ali sings, I remember
shedding tears—as Auntie Neelam tests

the wax, dips a wooden stick
into viscous amber liquid she will layer

thick on each arm, those slender
cylinders of skin and bone once heavy

with flesh. Even now, you want
more than you can bear: some space

to have as your own: not this
chair, taken over by some other body

bent backwards, not your apartment,
filled with papers, books thumbed through

on nights the stars remain unseen
through clouded sky. Once, your mother

knelt between your legs, trimmed
the hair there grown too quickly, warned