Three poems – by Aekta Khubchandani

by TBLM

How to know that you’re new to New York

The mailman is your friend now. His wife and you both practice yoga. She’s into hot yoga, you’re following the Iyengar school. He, the mailman and you are both happy about this conversation.

Or when you see skeletons of trees and realize that all the branches are a series of multiple “Y”s and you glue a “Y” to every thought that crosses your mind. You basically don’t sleep.

Or when you ask your white neighbor if her dog bites, she throws a bitch face at you asking if dogs ever bite. You want to tell her that humans bite too but you politely say— don’t they?

Or when you’re locked out of your apartment in pajamas and don’t feel cold. You’re a bit hot from the sweat because you’re worried about performing in another city in two hours, you haven’t exercised your vocals, forget practicing the poem. And your well-plated lunch in the kitchen is now cold. It’s way past lunch hour, it’s more like second coffee-of-the-day hour.

Or you’re on your phone and in love. You grate ginger instead of garlic for something that you’re cooking. Your lover saves you by asking you what you’re doing.

Or when you wake up to your window full of branches and sleep to another window full of clouds moving or sky, never sun.

Or the mailman says that he’s sorry so many times as you wait in the lobby for public security to arrive. He’s so sorry that you’re sorry for him being sorry. You aren’t used to apologies.

Or when you walk back home from school, you’re greeted by a beaten-up teddy bear fallen in the yard at midnight. The teddy is glowing with its tiny lights. You’re celebrating Christmas a month earlier.

Or when you eavesdrop on everyone’s conversations while waiting in a queue at Whole Foods so you feel like you’ve had an exchange of words even if it’s fake and temporary and often rubbish.

Or you become your own superwoman. You don’t need saving anymore.

Or when your plant loses weight, half its leaves are yellow and dying and you’re failing at being a plant parent, you wonder if you’d be a good cat person.

*

I’m looking in the mirror and I only see you

Would you be called a cat lady if your cat abandons you?
sometimes I reopen our old emails, read them for weeks
my fingers make for a firm fist, writing to you is meaningless

Cockroaches are crawling on black granite
behind steel vessels and plastic jars
of masala crackers and granola bars

I didn’t know it would come to this—
to think of you and roaches in the same breath
you forgot to reply to my email, it’s been three years

Reading from you is meaningless too
I put boric acid in kitchen corners and no cockroaches die
you feed your cat and he runs away

What does this say about us, or where do we go from here
if you haven’t been here for the longest time
which creatures do I feed if we all look the same?

*

Everyone’s only hungry for love

I’m feeding a stray dog
my heart. He wagged his tail
and his eyes were stars
when he felt the touch of my palm
on his neck. He’s golden brown
with a thin patch of white on his forehead.
He’s strong limbed and groomed, sure
he’s well-fed but so hungry. When I ruffle
his ears and hold his face in my twin hands
I touch a scar, now dried with blood
and healing but he digs his face closer
to mine as if he knows that I know
his hurting and maybe I do.
I too have scars—nasty, and deep
still bleeding despite the years.
His bruise isn’t tender but he wants
a lot of love. He’s wild with hunger
by the night and my heart is almost over.