The Observer Effect
You want me to speak on my mother’s bangles,
the aroma of incense, drawers of mustard seeds and ghee.
But what do You have to offer me
if I am to tell you of home?
Is home not a place
where these English words cannot enter?
Ee manelli naavu Kannada matte Havyaka mathadudhu.
Perhaps home knew
of the greedy eyes and fast mouths that would dare claim to understand,
and so it wove itself into a pattern so unique
foreign fingers could not trace even if they hyphenated all the stars.
I was not conceived on American soil,
an Indian woman's body was my first home.
I flow out from inside my mother’s saffron-colored robes.
I live in the embrace of her four arms;
the wetness of Puttur,
the delicate white mist of Madikeri in Coorg,
the heat laden over muddy rice fields in Udupi,
the brisk early mornings of Mysore.
I love that land
in the way you love the characters in your favorite book.
They come to life only for you,
and you know Harry, Ron and Hermione
in a way no one else ever will.
You want to know where I come from
but I do not trust You.
If I say too much,
You might show up.
White Americans on summer holiday
with Coca-Cola and feminism,
and in the name of progress,
You would ruin us.
You want to know what home is,
well I have no couplets for You.
No mustard seeds or ghee.
And I would die before I mentioned brown skin.
Lest You make me
Make my own self foreign to me.
You are not welcome here.
And I do not trust You.