Tanuja Mehrotra Wakefield is a poet, writer, and editor who lives in Belmont, California, although she spent her childhood in Florida. The daughter of Indian immigrants, her poems explore family history, memory, myth, and music. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies and her first book, Undersong, will be published in February 2019 by FutureCycle Press. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, an MA in English from Tulane University, and a BA in English from Wellesley College. She has taught poetry to elementary school students as a California Poets-in-the-Schools instructor, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Belmont from 2015 to 2018.
How I want to give you Hindi
flowing as swiftly as this milk,
but I can only offer dood or
pani, pani, pani. I’ll call you
my beti, my bitya rani.
Here’s khana and there’s aaja.
Bolo baby bolo, I croon when
you cry. Poor Uncle Moon hangs
skyward, waiting for introductions,
thali in hand. I know not
what clatters to ground and
maybe it doesn’t matter,
as long as you drink the sound.
* Chanda Mama means Uncle Moon and comes from a lullaby in Hindi that casts the moon as a loving uncle in the sky.
Originally published in ellipsis.
Photograph: Anastasia Beach, 1975
The pier vanishes into two shades of blue
pale blue kissing ink sea.
How is it one shade can lie
on top of another as if sleep inhaled the sky?
Wood under foot shudders into infinity
or at least to the white shack at the pier’s end
with its Coca Cola sign, its lunch of battered
and fried shrimp. The breakers rush and roar.
On a radio a fisherman brought for company,
the tinny, catchy tune ensnares us.
We are hand in hand, both with bowl cuts
Mine black yours blonde
both silky nets for sunlight.
We sip on milkshakes and study our shadows or our tender,
bare feet, or the wide gaps between the planks
that reveal water and rough rock.
Hand in hand under a birdless sky.
Years must pass before I look again
and see that yes, we held hands once.
We slipped through slats to the sea.
Originally published in Ki’in.