Threading My Eyebrows in New Orleans – Saheli Khastagir

by TBLM

She plucked and weeded me
like her private garden.
Tending to me
like a page from her Koran,
or like the kantha my foremothers stitched.
Nine minutes of complete attention.
Every stem, every root, every bend.
She bends on me like a lover, a mother, a devotee.
Stretching? she says, and plumes me like a bouquet.
I stretch, she slices, stretch and slice, stretch and slice,
we are collaborators, co-gardeners and florists, all in one.
Someone behind me wants bubble tea,
but really just the tapioca, not the tea, they clarify.
My lover- mother- gardener gives her permission, yes.
Yes, tapioca, Yes, bubble tea.
They divide the chores,
who will take out the trash, who will sweep the floor.
If I keep sitting here, I will know
their bra sizes and sex lives.
In their rough-cut Hindi and gilded Arabic,
I recognize them like old neighbours,
I want to ask them about their mothers’ health,
and borrow handfuls of lentils and soil.
When I go to pay, they are unrecognizable again.
Tongues folded inside a uniform American accent,
faces set back into customer care smiles,
one of them asks: would you like the receipt, ma’am?