January 1, 2018

Ananda Lima

LINE

I inherited from my mother
the knobbly joints and square ends
of my fingers
from my father, I got the habit of biting
my nails
their shortness, the frayed missing skin
had never bothered me
but now I have a son
and he has begun to bite too

In America, I learnt that one can snap
a rubber band against one’s wrist
each time one’s hand reaches up
towards the mouth
By the back of my hand
the rubber band disappears
into the color of my skin
but when I turn and face the inner side
it is a clear division
of my body

The first time I saw a cotton tree
I found it beautiful
the cotton so white in its brown cradle
so soft against the square tips of my fingers
I squeezed the dead flower around it
and felt joy
from hearing it crackle

As children, we had cups full of sugar
cane we chewed on it and spit
out the bagasse 
Toothless men ran the knobbly stalks
through a machine, the juice
trickled into our glasses
and the flat piece that came out
on the other side
was put through it again
until everything was gone
the dry split stalk thrown into a pile
limp like blond hair

When I first arrived in America, I didn’t understand
what people meant when they said
with an American accent that they were
Irish or Italian or French
Now that I understand
I asked my mother for a family
tree
She said
she had never thought of such things
and she wouldn’t know much past
her grandmother’s first name
So what I have is my memory
of the faces of my relatives
and my own

When I first arrived in America, all I could see
was beauty
The snow fine like sugar
white like cotton
But now all of it
the beauty, the land, the tired metaphors
just make me sad

Before I left for America, I saw an individual
in the mirror
but today, I see my father, my mother, my brothers
my son
and a man missing skin
from tears on his back
and the man who did it
When I looked this morning,
I tugged on my rubber band
so hard
that it broke

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017

[download audio]

__________

Ananda Lima: “I came to America on my own and for a predicted temporary time, as a graduate student in linguistics. I spent my first years here happily learning to turn sentences into increasingly more complex syntactic trees. I studied the trajectory of sounds from lungs, to throat, to tongue, to ear. I computed the lambda calculus of ‘longing.’ But by the time I ended my program, I was married to an American and thus here to stay. And I had also understood that I wanted a different type of relationship to language, which went beyond analyzing its mechanics. Today I use the language that brought me to this country to help me live in it. I write about being ‘other,’ about my evolving understanding of myself and my place in America, motherhood in immigration, how my son and I will always have different homes: ‘longing’ as more than a sequence of sounds, a two-place predicate, a verb with an indirect object.” (web)

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