Anishka Duggal

Poetry of a Child Immigrant


fingernails skid off piano keys as easily
as her mother language rolls
off her tongue

she does not know how to play debussy
just as she will never learn
to love english

madre told her both were to be
necessities in her life

it was true

the syncopation of golliwog’s cakewalk
would haunt the rooms she
carried herself into

as gold and god and glory punctuated
the english of her

sobre mi she would say

then she would pause as if nothing
important was coming
to mind

nothing was

all that was left were hammers on trembling
strings and musical notes left
droning until empty

until the english provided relief
flooding back in a
modus vivendi

Explaining the Marangoni Effect

The literature of my body floats through water until it does not.
See it sink now, edges uplifted: an attempt to tread through, a last
message from the living. Skin is rolled and peeled as pieces of maple tree
leaves rise to the surface. All are level with pen’s paint on dead detritus

now elapsed. Time also floats, though upstream, like steeped mate tea
leaves back in the kettle after pouring. Vortex currents, you tell me,
as if to explain this defiance of gravity. Holding up your glass, I peer
into the drops that collapse and run back down in rivulets of bourbon

tears. You say strange words of capillary tension as if that will be enough
to devour this echoing time. Then you tell tales of stirring milk into our
coffee, of blowing smoke rings, of watching whirlpools form in bathtubs
to be eddied down deep. The story about the kerosene traveling

up the wick to ensure slow, steady burn was my favorite. Or maybe
it was the one about hibiscus leaves swelling so they could leach
into water, diffusing outward. Time stalled until it did not. You say,
Come, let me read you, as you take my free hand upwards in yours.

Father Tells Me

of times when being brother was the hardest chore
to complete.    of light switches clicked off
             plastic gliding against its mother:
the socket that postulated darkness over warmth
             as if to question the stipulations                             of writing to god.

of note-taking and note-making              the letters            u and i
never sitting together                    unless he was quitting.
                   of favoring pens over a pencil
                   as his father did
with sons over a daughter          three permanent joys
              over one erasable fear.

of gliding ink                 glib with knowledge of estrangement
               wanted to be the last of
                   familial communication           but instead the words
                                                                        i’m sorry
                                         still lying on his chest asleep.

                                                      of having too much to do to be able to run away
                                                                         this time.
of having a wife.
             of having a daughter.
                                                      of turning away a brother
the stench of alcohol on brother’s lips marring the inky line between wanting
                            and needing help.

                      of signing the death certificate with his last good pen.
                      of only having one brother after the funeral.
                                         of mailing thank you letters          envelopes with ink
                      bleeding       then       ink       skipping
                                     an   ellipsis   of   moments   carried   by
                                     and   carried   over   voices
                      some not      quite      making          it                  to

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