A very curious teenager, not beauty queen material
No good at holding a fake smile longer than two seconds
No good at delivering a statement on how to save the world
In under three minutes, smiling widely, with every pause
No good at anything remotely desirably beauty queenish
Like walking on a pair of high stiletto heels, strutting my ass
Woke up in the mornings, wrote poems. By hand
No computer and digital devices we had back then
A four letter word featured in one poem as a teenager
Strange word choice for a sixteen year old, don’t you think?
In a sentence?
Crucible of void
And then something about my mother’s potted marigolds
Standing in a glistening row like in a factory assembly line
Poems I wrote plenty. About landscapes and people
In Mustang and Solu Khumbu, Terai and Kathmandu
About Amala with her toothy smile in her buckwheat fields
About Anita, and Saroj, bonded laborer and angelic street kid
Had the Oxford English dictionary under my pillow like a bible
Woke up almost every morning, buzzing with words inside me
Waiting to get out. Scribbling furiously. Erasing violently.
Pencil lead twisting this way and that. Eraser in pieces.
Turning into words. Into the crucible of void.
Then somewhere in between, somewhere, I lost the words
Somewhere on train rides between New Haven and New York
Somewhere between the crumpled sheets of introspection, projection
Analysis, curiosity, openness, lovers gained and lovers lost
Somewhere between too many American thankyous and sorrys
I felt edges of the void creeping in until it completely enveloped me
Then the twin towers fell, it was like in the movies, and I was in an airport
The cheeriness of 1999 America and ‘how are you’s?’ replaced by the void
Coming back to America from summer holiday in Kathmandu, home
Father’s best of best whiskey laughs, mother says ‘khana ramro khanu’
‘Ani time ma khanu’. Eat good food – and eat it on time. Advice I ignore.
The Maoists have landed in Kathmandu. Less whiskey laughs. Less food.
Or was it more whiskey laughs and more food? I’ve got it all mixed up now.
The world seems more cold and sinister than during my disco dancing days
A house with no laughter, only tears. Orange alert. Red alert. Alert. Alert.
I take out my notebook and pencil from my ‘jhola’. Nothing. Sitting in an airport.
In transit. Between two worlds, third world and first world, divided by land and water
And accents and various curious uses of the English language
But open in the sky
Nothing. Not even a letter to an artist lover. To explain my lack of self expression.
Not knowing where to start. Not having the words. Where and how to begin?
I write in my blank, empty black and red notebook two words.
I didn’t know it would last
Fifteen years. But it did.
The void took over.
I lost my voice.
I lost the words.
I lost my third world English.
I lost my world.
I don’t know how it happened
Maybe it started in year 1
I am sitting in an English class at my big name university
Professor whose name I don’t remember says
Suggests, I take an English for beginners class
But I’ve known words like void and crucible
Since I was sixteen, I wanna say. But quiet, I stay
Big name university professor knows better
I must be a beginner of the English language
I watch my liberated ‘native English’ friends in college
Perform poetry in dark spaces. Underground.
And I think ‘very cool, but I can never be like them’
I go to New York, Bowery poetry reading slams, and lurk in the back
I am only trying to look cool, in my second hand laced petticoats
I wear over my trousers, and my big fur collared vintage suede coat
But they’re actually cool. This is just not my space.
So I just observe.
Where are you from?
Oh your English is not bad
And that accent….I can’t place it
I am watching your eyebrows
I want to f*&k you
My third world English
Picked and brewed in Darjeeling
Where your tea comes from
Words like void and crucible
Hand-picked from all the millions
Of word combination possibilities
For some curious, unexplainable reason