white cream drowning out the aztec
full but swallow a small sip
of the history of the modern world in a kleine cup
just until you’re sick
and then one more.
stacked in the corner store
small enough to be pilfered
by the college student behind the counter.
like dark little congolese hands.
congealing on your palms thick
on your tongue like fresh blood.
to the point of cliché,
or statistic. freshly knifed
and arranged like plots of land
up for grabs at a campus party.
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
tiny vial of karak. bitter
this ‘kadak zindagi’ and
dark as the ‘immigrant’ but
deluding sweet, hot as the desert sun
or glass windows high up
or optimism perhaps
or the kindness of the driver in a sweaty
taxi at some exit.
the sticky rhyme with “retort”
the foreignness of the waiter who talks back
in a slow shout.
you just didn’t hear.
later your cheeks are dough
with teary rum in the metro.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
biryani. a pot
of luxury labelled specially
on the menu in invisible ink
cooked by a plump nepali man hidden behind
a door: insignias of your childhood, pride pins of your culture
tacked on the wall in the middle of europe.
what beautiful decorations!
the foreignness dissolves in one spoonful
and a sigh. the ache in your chest
and in the small well of the nepali man’s back
evaporates in the steam of the pot.
today, in a large pan for sharing.
imagine yesterday, hot on the tongue
and piping like privilege.
the south american continent somewhere like a slice of bread
ready for the touch of a knife. cut
and spread the shrimp soft pink like a tongue
once bled from a continent buttered up
with a colonial language.
i do not speak it.
i do not know.
these words are so beautiful
and i am their bile and their bastard.
Painting by Youqing Wang, “Bread with Cherry Preserve and Butter”