Two Poems – by Arjun Rajendran
Hotel Lobby: Sultanahmet Istanbul
After the mosque and the church, some chestnuts,
after the rain— every drop a passport
to misery— we return to a room not housekept.
As we wait, we’re offered Turkish tea and Apple tea.
The family next to us is, we learn, from Germany.
Well, they’re Iraqis from Germany. We’re Indians
from America. But this evening, we’re all in the lobby
of a hotel in Sultanahmet: united against
the weather, armed with tea, conversing about
our adopted lands, kvetching about the cost
of food in this tourist district, how to bargain for lamps,
the cheat who drove us from Taksim, why they will
never return to Baghdad; sharing snippets from our lives
to keep the windy evening outside our thoughts,
from gripping our bones with visited sorrows
till we only remember places we’re here to forget.
Four Segments, Five Recurrences
A stranger is showing me his poetry collection-I’m envious it’s thicker
than mine. The book is a folio of medical records, prescriptions,
x-rays and a photo of a poem written as a healing exercise.
My grandma just died and I’m in mourning. My father, the atheist,
is telling me not to worry. Points to her rice colored footprints
made overnight on his office floor: see, she’s still here.
The second round of a job interview. Scientists pass by smiling
ever so politely. I’m specifically told not to sit in view
of the camera as their shareholders shouldn’t know they are
hiring immigrants. I’m tense. Nobody’s asking me questions.
What’s the plan for today? I ask. Today we sit
back and relax, watch some porn.
I’m talking in French with a Bonbon girl in Paris. I think je voudrais
will sound better than je veut. It turns out the girl is actually
from England. Embarrassed, I order some Bonbons in English.
I’m in an open area. The air thick with metals smelting. Blue
tanks line the walls. To each tank, one child, covered
up to the neck in hot water. The children are
screaming “ow, ow, ow”. What’s happening??? I ask. Someone
replies it’s to increase the chemo’s efficacy.
I ask the Bonbon girl when she’s getting off work. The women
around her snigger. We realize neither of us is single. Agree
there’s no harm in a fling.
In the last tank, a boy of eight. He’s breathing comfortably
at the bottom and playing Mahjong. I pull out
my cell phone surreptitiously, click his pic. I dream
of the likes I’ll get in that photography forum.
I’m pretending not be hurt by his disinterest toward my collection
Two queues of workers in construction hats; I have the job
and it begins with me sitting on a concrete block
between sick children in tanks and mutes looking past me.