We were little kids who sat in the school cafeteria during lunchtime. The cafeteria special that day, as it was every other day, was pizza. I used to think that pizza was a big deal, but the school pizza really, really sucked. I had a friend from Botswana next to me and a friend from Korea across. The Botswanian friend grabbed her slice of pizza and downed it. She slurped that stringy white cheese and said it was good. I glanced at my piece of oozing pile of lump before me. There was hardly any pizza sauce in it. The cheese looked man-made; it was was white and tasteless. I turned it a bit and looked under it. The dough was almost white and seemed uncooked. The bread had little holes in it that made it look like a big soggy biscuit. Amid my dissatisfaction, I grabbed it by my hand and took a bite off its cold triangular tip. The cafeteria was white and windowless. It looked like a big gym, but when I had revisited it many years later, I found out just how tiny that place actually was. It’s funny how things appear so big and grandiose when you’re a kid. I somewhat recall what I was wearing; probably light blue jeans, white sneakers, and a sweatshirt. That was the type of outfit I wore pretty often during those days; although they weren’t of my preference. My hair was probably half tied in a pony tail with a colorful clip that had strings and charms on it. My skin was smooth and wheat colored. My grandma used to say that to indicate that I was neither light skinned nor was I dark. It never looked like I was smiling, but I was a pretty
happy little kid. I always wanted to be around people and have fun.
All around me kids ate their respective soggy pizzas.
This was a big deal to me.
It took great distance and a lot of effort to get here, but here I was, in America, making new friends. Kids were just kids, no matter what our skin tones were or what our cultures were. We talked to each other like the vacant vessels that we were. Empty, and so open. We were filling it, I was improving on my English. Such genuine friendships, such innocent jokes and real laughter. We finished lunch, I threw away my greasy pizza. That, I just couldn’t open up to. I headed back to class with hands in my pockets alongside my friends.
When it began, I was just a timid girl with the weight of the classroom around me. Foreign faces and loud voices. I clearly couldn’t open up here. But your projects were interesting, Mrs. J, and you gave me a mission. I ran into the classroom the next morning with new ideas, and we tested them out with experiments. Science was a dose of therapy; a curious mystery. Sometimes I could sit on the lab stool and forget about the world while pipetting samples. Once my heart beat fast while awaiting the sugar cube experiment. We had a mission, professor, and we had energy. We bounced ideas; there were no dumb questions. The school was a haven. And this classroom; once apprehensive and full of uncertainty, became a fun backyard.
But then then the funding waned, and the project ended. And the season was over.
Seeing this once energetic hub now with empty seats and scattered papers gave me a sinking feeling. And then to see you, professor, with your look so timid and your voice subdued; I got the feeling that this is the end.
This is what the end feels like–
a sinking feeling,
a closed classroom.
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching
In the night…
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night
flint delta blinds
There’s a beautiful bird out in a forest. She flies her little wings up and down the hilly terrain near the glistening, cold Himalayas. They refer to her as Noori; this beautiful, colorful bird. On rare occasions they get a glimpse of her striking beauty. Yet always, they hear her tweeting her silly, sweet songs to herself. Tunes that echo across mountains, resonate through valleys, and penetrate through souls.
She makes me cry, this little bird.
I’d sacrifice a limb for her. I’d die for her.
There’s a little bird that sings her sweet songs in a forest. Her innocence is what lovers fall for. Her beauty is what poets write of.
who is my father.
Don’t torture me with pleasant morning air seeping through my bedroom window
I’m lying here under covers crying about my hometown, family, old friends, people, everyone, and everything that I miss
I see the words fuzzily dance up and down, slowly, in the computer screen ahead. I sit and stare just as she would, for what seems like a long time with no other plans in my life. And only then, does my mother make complete sense to me.
Months ago, my always smiling late grandma had said, “Look at you nani, gazing deeply elsewhere. What profound things you must be thinking of.”
And in complete honesty, I had explained, “Not really ama, I’m not thinking about anything at all. I’m actually just looking at the wall.”