From my father’s cupboard,
I fish out the familiar purple tin,
heavy with his old coin collection.
Let his vintage piggy-bank waterfall
into a pyramid of silver on the bed.
Aanas, athanas, chavanis from when
a gallon of milk was a chavani. Sparkling
gold ginnis. My favorite though
is a one aana coin that he, still in school,
threw on the tracks to see what a fast train
would do to the penny. It is important I think,
for me to like this blanked metal, a little
crimped moon. Because it reminds me
that my father, the constant harbourer of hurry
and worry, the man who plots to leave
a room as soon as he enters it — once stood still
as a summer afternoon — back of his knees
sweating sweet, tapping his feet at the edge
of a railway platform to simply observe
the workings of pressure. Just as he sat,
rocking his chair, slow as a lullaby,
for three months and change by mother,
comatose in a non-AC hospital room.
By then he was done running
her memory back by purring the songs
she loved. By then, the only song
was him waiting and his resting
heart like an empty bucket poised
to be filled with the water of courage.
What is his exit strategy now? Where does
he hide his sorrow? Between the same
molars that once thickened as honeycombs
with mum’s roti crumbles, deep fried
in sugar and ghee? Kutti — we call this
rich breakfast. And dad’s salesman-superstition
is to absolutely eat kutti on the first
of every month. Kutti on the tongue,
he used to sing, means Lakshmi will come
chhan chhan chhan. Once, he sang
for more money. Once, he sang for more
of mummy. Now, before work, he gulps down
three Marie biscuits, a glass of milk. Rubs his belly
says, I am superbly full. He knows he isn’t.
He knows I know he isn’t. Fullness,
his currency of consolation, his way of saying,
I know we’re grieving for your mother,
but I don’t want you to
also grieve for my hunger.
Preeti Vangani reads “Unrewarding”
Preeti Vangani is an Indian poet & personal essayist. She is the author of Mother Tongue Apologize (RLFPA Editions), her first book of poems (winner of RL India Poetry Prize.) Her work has been published in BOAAT, Gulf Coast, Threepenny Review among other journals. She is the Poetry Editor for Glass, a Poet Mentor at Youth Speaks and holds an MFA (Writing) from University of San Francisco.