Grandmother’s sari, freckles of gold poured into silk,
Koil’s cry, scrap of khadi grandfather spun,
I pluck all this from my suitcase — its buckles dented, zipper torn.
Also pictures pressed into an album:
Parents by a rosebush,
Ancestors startled in sepia, eyes wide open,
Why have you brought us here?
Mist soars on the river, my door splits free of its hinges:
My children’s children, and those I will never see –
Generations swarm in me,
Born to this North American soil, dreamers in a new world.
I must pass through that rocking doorway,
Figure out words, clean minted, untranslatable –
Already in the trees finches are warbling, calling my name.
Note: This poem was specially composed for the exhibit Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, Smithsonian, Washington DC, 2014-2015. The first stanza of the poem appears on the wall of the exhibit just as you enter, above a trunk filled with various articles a migrant might have brought with her. (Published in India Quarterly, 2014)