Littered Nostalgia — Four Poems by Kashiana Singh

Feb 29, 2020

From the Indian diaspora, all the way from Chicago, Kashiana Singh brings us four poems that voice a nostalgia interpolated with greater preoccupations that linger like shadows crafted from verse.

From the Indian diaspora, all the way from Chicago, Kashiana Singh brings us four poems that voice a nostalgia interpolated with greater preoccupations that linger like shadows crafted from verse.

 Half-finished Poems

I wake up to a half-finished poem. I hear it. It is wrapped in a pleated skirt playing hopscotch, skipping lines and punctuations, jumping images and metaphors, all in carefree banter. I slip back to sleep, or into a half conscious state. Some poets have produced their best work in that state. I really would love to play hopscotch. I draw open the windows, widen the ugly violet gladiola on my curtains, it is raining. I hold my poem. I write about letting my thickening body find respite from its own environmental disruptions, those that Greta and Trump and other world leaders will not necessarily be able to resolve. I let the hormones and other morons plot themselves, laying into each hopscotch square, my peri menopausal events. Often unexplained, now migraines impact my pupils’ tolerance to light, a bruised broccoli buttock is real after push-up efforts, and the failure to incite inner goddesses; I have made an effort to invoke all of mine except Kali1. The deep breathing, disencumbered practices do come in handy. They allow me to lengthen my thoughts on routine gynae visits when I have to answer vinegary questions posed by a beautiful organic-shampoo-washed-hair-type doctor in Birkenstocks. She is so perfect; it is nauseating but has a rating of 5 on Google Reviews so I enroll with her again this year. My daughter says I must research through these reviews. Moreover, Dr. Yang always has appointments on weekends. On other days, I have to deal with a job and hair on my chin showing up like rhetorical questions in a New Yorker school poem. Nocturnal activity is mostly related to the mundane, reminders about things to do, and a constant vasomotor chatter of ‘it is so hot’ or ‘it is so cold’ or ‘it is all because of you’. Avoid alcohol they say, but green tea is only a placebo. I think finishing a poem is a better idea, it improves your metabolic rate. You have been sleeping in the guest bedroom these days.

1 Kali – Kali is one of the Goddess Avatar’s in Hindu mythology and represents a complex origin deeply rooted in tribal folklore and history. In simplistic terms she is the Goddess representing power, Nature, force of time. In context of the poem, she is simply being alluded to as a symbol of primordial feminine force – the duality of nurturing, yet devouring which is a woman’s relationship to her own body and the cosmos.

Basil Chai, rituals

Poppies resurrect an ache
Grass blades prickle a dawn
Peonies collapse in wedlock
Sunflowers shock an astonished bee
Clover leaves kindle the ample earth
A hyacinth canopy drips succulent
Watching fanfare in my backyard
              incorrigible, as it leisurely
awaits crested hummingbirds

I neatly, sip my basil chai
              the world outside, of me
my fenced backyard, habitually
moves through with clarity
where bodies
after bodies
are arranged in
flower beds, caskets with
poppies, peonies
woven in wreaths
eloquent in imagination
of mothers
in reality these funerals
are but ordinary
weeded these young
boys are arranged
in bags after bags
after bags
laid down neatly knotted
in bedded rows
by first responders
their eyes cast down
in neat silence, kneeling

I neatly, sip my basil chai, fragrant cinnamon
healing ginger, infuses a routine into me, until
the next breaking news
              I focus on incorrigible things
within my backyard, let things settle
down on the outside.
rituals are ways

                     of manoeuvring through our conditions

Littered nostalgia

Never equally distributed
Nostalgia has a knack for
Loitering around

A purple dairy milk cadbury1 wrapper
             Teases you around the house
             As it mocks your truths
             Sometimes under the bed
             Escaping the temptation of
             Drawing stories with fingernails

Bhangra2 beats at wayside stalls
Lay ambush to a nondescript halt
On a dusty outstretched highway
With straws in thick glass bottles of
             Kesar milk badam3 and
             opaque strawberry shake
             Iced coffee longingly swirling around
             lacquered chocolate as it made love to
             an assembly of white cream
             swirling memories on my eager tongue

Lal Qila basmati4 in intimate plastic bags
             held together by colorful strings
             garlands threaded in industrial reminders
             of basmati flavors making dreams
             each grain bubbling with
             biographies of
             laughter on sultry
             summer afternoons
Fragmented meetings of unraveled worlds
             in bites of pickle, tart and crisp
             carrot, cauliflower and turnips

Whereas arms and feet and shuffling
Voices, porous knitting together at
             Kiryana5 stores
             Sabzi wallah6
             
Ticket windows
             Prasad7 queues

On a mission
I grab my ticket for the
             First day first show of a Friday release
             The channa jor garam8 in paper cones
             tall gathering of stories
             like syllables shuffled in
             sentences, and accents of
             shifting journeys, chat patte
             reflections sealed with toothpicks
             Into triangles of betel leaf bites
             chewing contrasts, spilling personas

l
             i  t  t  e  r  e d

forgetfulness
tethers me to
obstinate
memories

1 cadbury - Cadbury Dairy Milk is a brand of chocolate manufactured by Cadbury and most popular in India.
2 Bhangra - Bhangra is a folk dance supported by beats of a large drum that describe scenes or stories from Punjab and is popular as street music at stalls and roadside restaurants as well as blended into all other music genres across the world.
3 Kesar milk badam - Badam Milk is milk flavored with almonds and saffron to enhance flavors.
4 Lal Qila basmati – Lal Qila Basmati is a popular premium brand of basmati rice commonly sold in plastic bags.
Kiryana - Hindi word for a neighborhood grocery store.
Sabzi wallah – Vegetable vendor selling vegetables in makeshifts tents or carts.
Prasad - Food or other sweet offerings, considered as sanctified, after being presented to God and consumed by worshipper.
channa jor garam - Indian snack made from flattened chickpeas seasoned with spices and served at street stalls, cinema halls, beach walks.

birds of dire battles

like the opposite
sides of a tunnel
zooming past eras
of slowly electrocuted
nerve endings, raw
scraping with flesh
estranged eyeballs
ruthlessly drowning
drowning, drowning
into their own wells
dilating, dilating
until images collude
arrows into night
grinding, grinding
my teeth hollow out
my jaw before it departs
into the sky watching
watching, watching
birds of dire battles
fluttering
fluttering
fluttering
into a prism of
insufficient
dead
ends

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About the Contributor

Kashiana Singh is a management professional by job classification and a work practitioner by personal preference. Kashiana’s TEDx talk was dedicated to "Work as Worship." Her poetry collection, "Shelling Peanuts and Stringing Words" presents her voice as a participant and an observer. Her poems have been published on various platforms including Poets Reading the News, Visual Verse, Oddball Magazine, TurnPike Magazine, Dissident Voice, Feminine Collective, Spillwords, Poetry Super Highway, Café Dissensus. among others. You can listen to her reciting her work on Rattle Open Mic sessions, "Songs of Selah" podcast and "Poetry Super Highway" episodes. Kashiana lives in Chicago and carries her various geographical homes within her poetry.