Summer 2016 - Poetry

Anuradha Bhowmik

 

Growing Old With Baba

I wore coats of clear nail polish in first grade,
and Baba kept my fingernails safe from yellow
masala stains when he fed me rice and torkari

in molded mounds that bordered the Corelle
plate like a clock. At that age in Bangladesh,
Baba would’ve been in Class 1, where he ate

salted rice with a hardboiled egg each day
and walked two miles to school barefoot.
When he rode the jitney home after late

shifts at the casino, he brought free
leftover issues of The Press of Atlantic City,
and thawed Cornish chicken overnight

on day-old sheets. I’d wake up to Hi-Ho
crackers in pairs and circle pizzas wrapped in
napkins, carried inside his coat pockets

from the casino cafeteria. He slept
with white chest hairs peering through
holes in his tank top. At home, he wore

the same lunghi for months and let me
blow my nose into its folds when I
had a cold, until the plaid shuti fabric

frayed and tore. I was five months old
when I got pneumonia in America,
and Baba gave me antibiotics through

an IV in my foot. He saw his baby sister’s
name shaped in his healer hands, since
the day his family couldn’t pay 2 taka

for a doctor to save her. He saw my face
smeared with sticky rice and dried torkari,
my cheeks stuffed with mounds, and smiled.

“What are your kids going to say if I’m still
feeding you when you’re old?” He wiped
my mouth with a damp paper towel,

and I sipped water from the cup brim,
staring at bits of rice floating in the glass,
wishing they wouldn’t sink so fast.

 

 

 

 

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Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech and the poetry editor for the minnesota review. Anuradha graduated with a BA from UNC Chapel Hill in 2015. She is a Pushcart nominee and has received scholarships from the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Frost Place, the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Her poetry and prose are forthcoming or have appeared in Copper Nickel, The Normal School, Word Riot, The Boiler, Pithead Chapel, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. Anuradha can be found at www.anuradhabhowmik.com.

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.