'Forty Years Later: What I Know' and 'From Bombay to Baltimore'

Photo by Flip Schulke

Forty Years Later: What I Know

Let me say this about immigrants


who burrow through the earth

to swim in rivers whose names they lisp,


Mississippi, Missouri—so many esses, hisses, misses,

the Grand Canyon they fly over with paper wings.

I love the way they step off a plane or boat into a silky twilight

towing belongings—prayer beads, bamboo flutes, jute bags—

scraps of this and that, passports and photographs,

leaving behind scorched chimneys, banana leaves,

monkeys hanging by their feet from trees.

But here is what they do not say—

We will never be whole again.

We cannot, in truth, uproot.

We will grow fins, wings, scales, tails, water-colored third eyes.

We will use our arms as legs, heels as fists, bellies and backs as floats.


We will fill our mouths with ash.

We will chill our teeth

drink the acrid wine of separation

and sleep through occasions—birth, death, days between—

for this one chance to awaken

grateful, still surprised.

*First appeared in "The Cortland Review", Issue 59, 2013

From Bombay to Baltimore

The Arabian Sea still flecks with fishing boats

like paper toys my father taught me to fold

and float in streams behind our home.

My plane, a silver scythe knows no ache,

splices clouds in half like cotton scarves,

shreds and tosses wispy threads afar.

Dim one-bulb huts recede, pinpoints of fire flies,

five star hotels shrink to match-box size,

coconut fronds to dainty fans.

This time, my heart, quiet and stilled,

leaves behind a billion people, maybe more,

who say their destinies are written on their foreheads.

And still I search between continents,

between sky and sky,

between then and now

for home.

*First appeared in "Pirene's Fountain," Vol. 4, Issue 9, 2011

Lalita Noronha is the author of "Where Monsoons Cry" (Black Words Press, fiction) which won the Maryland Literary Arts Award and two poetry books, "Her Skin Phyllo-thin" (Finishing Line Press) and "Mustard Seed: A Collage of Science, Art and Love Poems" (Apprentice House, in press).

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