“You worthless . . .” my mother says and pauses mid-sentence,
her fingers deftly swiping through the multicolored
candies—her favorite pastime for killing time,
her only way of crushing the chilling loneliness.
To prove my dutifulness, my mouth forces itself into a grim,
jack-o-lantern smile. Unappeased, she blasts the candies
with a double color bomb and looks straight at me—through me.
Her eyelids are heavy with years of resentment,
two dark moons hang beneath the sunken eyes.
“You worthless . . .” she whispers under her breath and stops.
One of my cousins walks in, flops on the sofa,
takes his brand new iPhone 11 Pro Max, and scrolls
through his Facebook feed. Even inside the house, he likes
to wear his new Ray-Bans—the ones he bought
from a duty-free shop in Dubai. He’s also wearing
one of those I <3 NYC T-shirts. He flashes
a jeering smile at me, and says to my mother—
“How much exactly does he make as a writer?”—
the one question every relative in this god-
forsaken country asks you. My mother spits a figure,
and the EDV moron laughs, exposing
his yellowing teeth and blackening gums—the result
of drinking one too many American soda pops.
How much do I make? How much can I ever
make in this rotten country? I mumble and words
crystallize as soon as they fall out of my mouth.
I’m shirtless, sexless—drifting from one street
to another, searching for my face in garish shop fronts.
Once in a while, I run into old friends from high school.
“K chha, yaar? America najane?” The question repeats itself
until words lose their bearing and fall apart.
Every Dashain, the drunken voice of my maternal
uncle rings inside the kitchen. “K garne yo desh ma?”
He pours himself another drink and glares
at me with mocking eyes. “Loksewa dine?” my father
looks at me—his eyes are liquid, just like the color
of the cheap whiskey he’s drinking.
Without reason or rhyme, I walk along the darkening
alleys of Thamel, only to find myself lost
among the bright neon lights—glowing signage, blurring
my vision. A sudden flash and I dream of naked bodies
lying atop me. I open my eyes and the sad
street frowns at my existence.
“Bahira jane? Najane? K garne yo desh ma?”
Words crystallize within the mist and explode into
a million tiny pieces. After hours of strolling, I look down
at my rubber sandals—the soles are coming off, and right now
they make gaping holes like the mouths of two hungry
alligators, waiting to bite off my future from the face
of my present days.
“K chha, yaar? America najane?” means “What’s up, buddy? Aren’t you going to America?”
“K garne yo desh ma?” means “What are you going to do in this country?”
“Loksewa dine?” means “Will you take the Public Service Commission exam?”
“Bahira jane? Najane? K garne yo desh ma?” means “Are you going abroad? Aren’t you? What are you going to do in this country?”
Poetry by Yayāti
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Written on 2020-01-23 at 13:01
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