by Jai Bashir
He was caught in the still smiles of my seventh birthday.
My lover of two years, still developing an understanding—
Of the girl with the thick pink jagged lines where teeth
Would take their place. Reflected in the white candles
Pushed into the cake cream. He left a whorl of unique
Prints on the picture pane. Smoothing my once black
Short and ribboned braids. Worn in the Indian-style
Of all my honorary grandmothers in Bangalore.
He had brought into bed another photograph, a Polaroid.
The single one of my diabetic Mother’s mother, tucked-in,
Blind from “the sugar” disease. Boxes of wedding sweets
Hidden by her boxes of glass bangles under the sheets.
Mashing date slurry and whips of cocoanut flakes
In those cool plum gums in the big lips I inherited.
She had seen the partition, blood, flashes of heat
From the fires, the riots, and programs on the TV.
"I can see it in her eyes."
Holding the oily square next to my oval face.
I asked him later if he had any good pictures from his childhood.
He repeated "good pictures" reading Roland Barthes on my breasts,
Taking his time to recall those images of images.
"Oh, all of them came out differently than expected.”
"My Mother was terrible at using the camera.”
He whispered touching the skin on my eyelids.
Over and over in circles like an old telephone dial.
Or, when we were kids, rewinding a videocassette.
There he was.
A small sphere
of green. Sitting
inhaling sweet moss
and mud in the punctured
tarp pitched in the mouth
of a cold mountain morning.
On a mission to break
the earth, uncover calcite shells.
He has always known
a Wasatch morning was made
from the mystic something
buried in the bones of
the ancient benthic.
I imagine his mother crouching
on her once young tan legs.
Fanning her hands,
like dispersing campfire smoke,
to get him in the center
and into focus.
Observing him from the pine
with covered breath,
distant and flexed, was a
pit-olive black bear.
The animal’s eyes beamed
the white of spider beads.
Two iris delicate pistons
between muscular wet snout.
"He was shot—
We just didn't know it then."