Origins, et al

 Origins  (inspired by Naomi Shibab Nye's Blood)

My mother combed through my thick frizzy hair

as we sat on the marbled tiles in the kitchen.

I winced as the comb attempted to tame the tangles, the chikkus,

but she scolded me, as I was gifted with the hair of a true Indian girl.


In the summer when the monsoons poured down on us,

I reached for the corner of my ammama’s saree

to find shelter from the large, black sky.

She opened my eyes and taught me to admire

the harsh winds, the drops that fed the land, the hearts, of true Indians.


Years later I learned the language of the mridangam,

which beats through the soul of every Indian.

I painted my palms with the deep red of the henna leaf,

announcing to the world that I was a true Indian.


In the village the hot sun beat down on us

as we ran through the lush green fields of rice.

We were told of the mysteries of our past,

the stories behind the wonders of India.


Today the memories clot my blood,

slowly inching their way to my heart.

They try to remind me how it felt

to be a true Indian.


My house is filled with the sounds of this new land,

the elements of our origins now hidden and lost.

Sometimes I wonder

What would a true Indian say about us now?


My mother glares at the messy hair

that sticks out of the bun on my head.

She sits me down at the kitchen table and reminds me

that the gift of being a true Indian

must be treasured.


As he sat deep in thought he tried to deter

The recurring thoughts, the thoughts of her.

He remembered the times they went hand in hand

He knew her heart, her face, her hair – every strand.

He remembered the times they walked shoulder to shoulder

Wishing every moment only to hold her.

And he remembered the times they stood face to face

But he remembered them as the good old days.


And now he reaches for contact but finds he’s alone

With his hands left cold, lonely, and unpaired.

He’s been long forgotten, left lost and detached

With no one’s heart to fill but his own.


He desperately searches for a way to get her

To somehow, once more, be together. 

Aunty’s Daughter Was Seen with a White Boy 

The look on my mother’s face

reminds me of the faces of those dead fish

scattered along the coasts, the fish markets of



where the women are meek,

their bodies enveloped in long sarees

hidden from the wandering eyes of men,

from the loud mouth of society


My mother mutters her disapproval,

words I have heard too many times

The Look at what America has done to them

always following What ever happened to our sweet Indian girls?


Her eyes glaze over as she remembers old times

when girls were praised by Aunties for their good manners, their cooking

when girls were whispered about by Aunties for their natural beauty, their modesty

I can read her mind: What happened?


Now, she cringes

at the sight of a touch, a kiss,

the remote fumbling in her hands

as she frantically tries to change the channel


Now, she wonders out loud

how Lady Gaga’s dress could possibly show so much skin

and how one seventeen year old boy could invoke so much obsession,

so much Bieber fever


Now, she is amazed

that Aunty’s daughter, once thought to be shy and good,

was seen in the park – walking, talking, and even holding hands

with a white boy


As I silently watch the truth fill her,

the lines on her forehead becoming more sharp

and the shaking of her head more rapid,

only one thought makes its way to my mind


I’m lucky I’m not Aunty’s daughter.


When he first laid eyes on her – she took his breath away

Something he never forgot, how she took his breath away.


The excitement of something new, the heart pounding in their chests

The tingling of a first kiss, which took their breath away.


But one day, something happened – they called it some fancy name

But all I know is what it took: your last breath. Away


with the summer, the fall enters with colors of brilliance,

Masking the harsh winds that take my lonely breath away.


I wander through withered leaves and vacant lots

The quiet tears silencing my breath away.


As the desert of drought asks of the empty clouds,

I wonder to you: How could you leave me, and take my breath away?


I watch the lilies in the garden wilt more everyday

I know we both wonder why our breath was taken away.


But, like a shy girl remembers the first time she hears someone

Say Her name, I will always remember how you took my breath away.


Shreya Kalva
Age 16, Grade 11
Stuyvesant High School
Gold Key

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