Where Do You Come From?

I come from the nether regions
 
They serve me pomegranate seeds with morsels of flying fish
 
From time to time I wear a crown of blood streaked grass.
 
 
Mama beat me when I was a child for stealing honey from a honey pot
 
It swung from the rafters of the kitchen.
 
Why I stuffed my mouth with golden stuff, no one could tell.
 
 
King Midas wore a skin that killed him.
 
My nails are patterned ebony, Doxil will do that
 
They made a port under my collar bone with a plastic tube that runs into a blood vessel.
 
 
 
I set out with mama from Bombay harbor.
 
Our steamer was SS Jehangir, in honor of the World Conqueror —
 
They say he knelt on the battle field to stroke the Beloved’s shadow.
 
 
The waves were dark in Bombay harbor, Gandhi wrote in his Autobiography
 
Writing too is an experiment with truth.
 
No one knows my name in Arabic means port.
 
 
On board white people would not come near us
 
Were they scared our brown skin would sully them?
 
Mama tried to teach me English in a sing song voice.
 
 
So you can swim into your life she said.
 
Wee child, my language tutor muttered ruler in hand, ready to strike,
 
Just pronounce the words right:
 
 
Pluck, pluck             Suck, suck
 
 
          Duck, duck
                                           
 
                               Stuck, stuck.
 
 
 
 
 
May 12 - July 4, 2018, NYC
 

Meena Alexander, "Where Do You Come From?" Copyright © 2018 by Meena Alexander. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow.
Source: PoetryNow (2018)
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