when my parents immigrated to this country they practiced their cursive until the letters curled into pearl. my mother hates me. my mother came here for me. expected texan desert and found cactus exists without it. houston has trees. houston has thorns. my mother swallowspits thorns.
when my parents immigrated to this country my father curved easily. folded into cot and single sheet nights. perfected corners and became mat. my father left me. my father came here for me. fit me in the palm of one hand, warm from doing the dishes. did the dishes before walking out.
when my parents immigrated to this country my father lived in a motel. my father still lives in a motel.
each cockroach reminds him he is not home.
home blessed. home an offered knife.
when we move into the extended stay america my father does not cry because he is in america. he does not miss the single leaf protecting spindly boy from toothed monsoon. instead he scratches success into his legs and remembers that bedbugs require beds. mold heavy in the air and he smells dust calling to pregnant clouds. the drain swirls and pushes out eight eyed babies.
my mother never planned on staying in america.
I miss my mother most when old filmy songs play and the thread of her catches in my bangle. it unravels and the sequins smash together with a sound like the breaking of payal. I miss my mother with the exile of blood in temple. the incense of burned marigold. the breakage of circle. the counter clockwise. my back turned to marble and rich cloth. hamara saath janam ka saath hai.
I have barely survived the last six lifetimes.
body a match. body offering blood.
-- Rukmini Kalamangalam is a page and performance poet from Houston, Texas. She is a graduate of Carnegie Vanguard High School and a current freshman at Emory University. In 2018, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of the Southwest and a National Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador as well as Houston Youth Poet Laureate. Her poem, “After Harvey,” was set to music by the Houston Grand Opera. She has been published by ABC 13 Visions, Blue Marble Review, Da Camera Museum, and GASHER, with forthcoming work in Tilde. She has been recognized by the Harris County Department of Education and nationally by Scholastic Writing Awards.