Sunlight falling as a raindrop on his canvas curving gentlly over his birth mark a tiny dark mole reminding us of our ancestors. Ancient coins, old prayers, and secrets we discovered while our mother’s turned their backs catching the last rays of the sun. The musky damp smell of half dried sarees with Bengal block prints and cotton petticoats washed with blue Rin. Like fire, memory glows.
where sat the fragile bones
more happened that summer than just walking past lonely benches staring at children. they broke those glasses old reflections, stale love sketched on paper. brown faces scared invisible lines imaginary maps not knowing who they are. under a stripped umbrella they stood in their batik blouses hiding from the sun that exposed their skin made them brown, maybe yellow until everyone knew they were stained like glass. that summer, they wondered where should they die if they didn't remember how to spell their names the way their grandmother’s taught when they left with red ribbons tied at the end of each braid.
this is what happens
when you come from a source that has no oceans, no rocks, no monsoons, no jet black crows; when you come from a womb that has no excessive flesh, big round eyes, black soil sitting underneath cracked nails;
when you come from a soul that has no memory, no dripping blood, no pulse no heated palms sweaty foreheads; when you come from ancestors that have all become ghosts frozen looks pelting through oil paintings that have lost their lust and all that remains are a thick lining of cobwebs a dark shawl; that's when you struggle to find out how to live, where you fit how to love, how to laugh in case everything spills and sticks like oil on the floor and you watch your body shrinking beneath your terracotta flesh and flirting with rain becomes a luxury to you.
Published in Saranac Review, Fall 2007
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt was born in Kolkata, India and left India when she was 19. For the last 27 years she has lived in the United States but continues to search for a place called “home.” Some days she is comfortable with a permanent place called displacement as her new home as it has been for billions of migrants in this world. Dutt-Ballerstadt is also a professor in the Department of English at Linfield College in Oregon. She has published poetry and other creative works in literary journals like Jouvert, Asian American Renaissance, Saranac Review and others. In 2010 she published a mixed genre book that dances between creative non-fiction, literary theory, poetry and politics titled, The Postcolonial Citizen: The Intellectual Migrant. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner Ralph and nine-year old son Ronan.