your accent is almost gone, he said. but darling,
maybe i never had an accent to begin with. is it
the way the Rs roll off my tongue, streams rolling over river rocks, is it
the way the letter A is wrapped in my throat, not
hidden behind my teeth, is it
the way the CVS cashier blinks when i ask for a packet
not a bag, is it my otherness, my yellow-on-black, is the crunch of my consonants
too loud for you?
your accent is almost gone
i wonder if the californian drought is drying up this soft brown soil, making
my skin hard, cracked, and i wonder,
what is left now, frozen nothingness of a no-man’s land?
because i still hear the R echoing off my tongue,
rangoli, ramakrishna, rani,
remittence, renewal, rambunctious, do you hear it too?
because i live in a glass house with a puja room: stainless steel,
and wooden figurines of ganesh and krishna on his little swing,
and i pick flowers to give to my mother on our silver tray,
and watch her as she lights the aarti,
and there’s that sound, unexplained,
the sound hidden in the ring of the bell in my brother’s hand,
maybe that sound is the R that struggles to escape
from under my tongue these days.
maybe that sound is the one of me listening to you say, as you
take a bite of your turkey provolone sandwich, sip from your
16 ounce cup of soda, clutch your morning cup of coffee, listen
to your NPR podcast, swallow your nyquil, play golf at 2 pm,
your accent is almost gone,
and i stare at you and hide behind bottles of chyawanprash,
(because they say it gives you immunity),
and my fabindia skirts and jaipuri sandals, and say,
no it’s not,
maybe it was never there at all