A Balancing Act

I collect currency, ruffling land-of-the-free
Money and trade rupees for this
Home, no cold showers, no fish gutted open by
Amma in her bun,
Tied in oil and strangled by love
For her children.

My daughter smacks English as frequently
As gloss, her lips curving in disgust
at Hindi prunes— she doesn’t feel the
Cacophony of streets, the monsoon
Hush in late July, the uncle next door,
Marijuana masking his voice.

I crack English words like
Tough walnuts and choke
When white colleagues make incomprehensible jokes
That I respond to so valiantly, but I don’t
Understand their smooth streets, French kisses on TV,
And July 4ths etched in my children’s whirring eyes.

They think forward, forward
Calling me backwards, but my
Backwardness was soaked in ferocious rainstorms
Followed by hymns,
Each day was completely newborn and
I no longer want to eat packaged banana chips
At suburban Indo-Pakistan stores.

I want fresh yellow from marketplaces
Buzzing with flies and men selling
Cantaloupes and shouts.

*Amma = mother

About the Author

Malvika Manoj is a first-year Business major at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. She likes writing poems that explore the nuances of human behavior and making guacamole with her dad. Her work was published in the Rare Byrd Literary Review, National Poetry Quarterly, Lilun Magazine and a self-published anthology called Sonder. She was recognized as a 2018/2019 National Winner for American High School Poets by the Live Poets Society of New Jersey and was a finalist in the New York Times Found Poetry Contest.