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1. Things The Immigrant Writes About
An immigrant writes of Jackfruit
Piled like lime-skinned eggs at the bazaar
Studded and stippled, whole-skinned
Or flayed, dandelion-bright pods agleam
Taste like the leavings of love-play
Between pineapple and mango
Sold for handfuls of coin at the corner
Of Gerrard Street and Hiawatha
Exorcised of old ghosts, seed-spirits
And thatch-roof stories
Sold by coconut-brown skin
And paisley-bright smiles.
2. Things The Immigrant Does Not Write About
The immigrant does not write of tree-fresh palapalam
Fallen offerings tumbling over pitted pink concrete,
Honey-succulent pods spilled out onto earth called home,
Soil still feeling the God-prints of Rama's feet.
The immigrant writes not of ten-thousand miles
Huddled in unlit shadow between palapalam pallets
Ten-thousand miles entombed in shipping steel
Whittling honey into ash, muting sap and spirit
Some half-dozen bodies, sarongs, saris, wedged in
Between bushels, purified by evaporating souls
Of palapalam soon to be boxed into Jackfruit shape
And Jackfruit name, smeared into some foreign lineage.
For even naturalists wear leaf-wrapped crowns, slip sandaled
Across bent brown necks sweating in mosquito heat.
Half-dozen bodies, passage paid by a cousin's hard-earned
Stack of pale green bills, queen-stamped leavings of empire,
By the clean dishes in the back of the idiyappam shop.
By envelopes slipped between hands, trailing across borders.
Endless lightless storm-tossed days inside a groaning cage
Husband, wife, sister, brother, son and daughter alive
And the sandalwood ash odor of son and daughter dead
Still lingering—drowning out the ripe must of palapalam
Forever entombing the jaggery-sweet taste in myth,
The now-tongue only tasting from the stippled flesh—
The hunger-pang of unanswered prayer.
At the corner of Gerrard and Hiawatha,
The lime-bright pyramid-pile of palapalam
Five dollars to a pound, pale blue and gold
Memorial to lauded and storied politics
Five dollars condensing the diamond-fractured
Lifetimes thread-bound to pallet-born fruit.
For pale paper, or a handful of golden coin,
Whittled down fruit, honey-song muted, untuned
Is still redolent
Is still worth the pain-price of remembering
Is still the gossamer-faint shape of home.
3. Things The Immigrant Dares Not Write About
The immigrant dares not write about Jackfruit shape
Compressing conflict maps into taste exotic.
Foreign eyes, seeing the fruit-pile edge-on,
The war-rot hidden in the flattened plane
Nothing seen but saffron stalks and cumin seeds
Nothing heard but tabla patter and sitar pluck
Nothing left but honeyed sweetness
From some mythic stranger not-here place
Jaggery-sweet fruit, gifted by the sari-clad
Their dandelion-bright smiles seen edge-on
The rot-limned shape of their past
Flattened to lime-skinned eggs, at the bazaar.