ME

19 May IMG_1677

I am.
determined
creative
professional.
I don’t.
need a great name
even though I already have one.
I don’t.
need you to plan my life
or tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.

I am.
intelligent and capable.
—A masters degree
not in camp counseling
not in chaperoning
English teacher am I.

A strong oak
standing powerfully firm—alone
I don’t.
need you telling me
where to walk
how to be
who to be
I am
determined
creative
professional.
I am not you.
I am me.
Me.
ME.

Prospective Immigrant Girl, Please Note

12 May IMG_4301

Plantain Empanada!

Plantain Empanada!

Sweet, silky plantain, creamy cinnamon custard massage my tongue.  It’s new and addictive and comforting. A dull headache lingers reminding me that I am now thirty-four and sleep is not disposable.  I take another small bite savoring each delicate moment with it and wonder what life is like in El Salvador.  I pretend I am on a beach sitting next to a pyramid of plantain empanadas and smile.  It feels familiar in a way that is deep-rooted in my soul.

As a new addict, I did what any normal foodie would do–researched its origin and recipe.  While empanadas are mostly eaten in Latin and South America, I found out that Spanish colonists actually brought them over.  More than that, the roots of an empanada actually reside in India; born from the samosa.  It suddenly occurred to me that like stories, all food is tied.  Like in Genesis from the Bible, each dish begat the next.

The first time someone said to me, “I don’t like curry,” I actually had a physical reaction and had to sit on my fingers to stop myself.  People declaring they don’t like Indian food because they don’t like curry used to mean that I would cut them off right then and there.  It annoyed me that these people didn’t know that: a. curry is actually not a spice used in Indian food; b. that curry is actually the name of a type of sauce and can come is a million variations.  I used to rudely reply: “do you mean the spice or the sauce?”  To which I usually got, “uh, I didn’t know there was a difference…I guess I don’t know.”  Infuriating me further.  Not liking Indian food declared a closed mind, a closed palette.  It was hard to accept that maybe people just didn’t like it and it had nothing to do with me.

I moved here in the 90’s to a neighborhood in which we were the only Indians, to a school where we were the only Indians.  I spent a lot of my teen years assimilating, softening my Indian edges so that Americans could take it. It wasn’t until my senior year that I confessed to my best friend that I still ate with my hands at home and with my Indian friends.  She was stunned and unsure.  When my friends spent the night, I had to introduce them to Egg curry, or fish fry; there was no pizza at hand. The truth is all food is connected in ways that we don’t always acknowledge just like all people are connected in ways that we don’t always acknowledge.  However, it’s comfortable to stay in our sandbox never crossing the long bridge.

I spent my twenties doing the same–judging all who were not ready to walk over that bridge towards my culture. As an aspiring actress and a woman trying to date not knowing on which side I really belonged, I wrestled inside holding both tightly.  Guarded and unsure, I stewed in insecurities some days and watched from my soapbox on others. This was a time when being an Indian actress seemed like an unrealistic goal.  Before Bend it like Beckham, and Kelly Kapoor on The Office, before Aziz Ansari on Parks and Rec, and The Mindy Project.  The reality that directors barely saw an Indian girl playing an American character was my truth.  Too timorous to fight the fight, I let go of my dream.  I remember sharing my regret with an actor friend of mine who responded with, “yeah, I guess I had/have passion for it; I don’t think that I can do anything else with my life.”  I nodded believing that maybe it was true; I didn’t have enough passion to pursue it wholeheartedly.  Yet today I know it wasn’t passion I was lacking.  No, I was unable to see the bridge that was so clearly glistening in front of me.

An immigrant identity, I have.  It’s sweet, silky on the outside with a creamy custard, cinnamon core.  Wrapped and fried, changed and evolved, I stand–a network.  A sum of all the connections I’ve made; some with my mind, some with my heart, and some with my palette.

Gratefully linked to this empanada, I eat my last bite aching for more.

Recipe for these heavenly treats!

*This post was inspired by Ms. Rich’s Awesome poem: Prospective Immigrants Please Note.

Finale–

1 May IMG_3470

standing at the edge
at curtain call
full
relieved
exhausted
sweaty
content

I am lifted—

by the rhythmic acclamation

Connected hands hold me up,
we bow at last
—finale

the pounding applause roars
echoing in the theater—
a dome

acknowledging the journey we took
laughing at the funnies,
sighing at tiny romances,
crying for the heartaches

I stand at the edge—

bright lights fill my eyes,
almost blinding me
I catch a glimpse of the first few rows

smiling back; again, I bow; this time alone—
grateful

The heavy red curtain—velvet
lingers overhead briefly
before eloquently closing the night
closing the world where I spent exhausting hours as an artist

—spectacular.

then, exit stage left

—Finale

Free

30 Apr

Fourth Quarter Freedom

Walking lightly hand in hand

The final push–now

Thirty-six sunrises

A soft reminder that it

Always ends, but will begin

Again and again

Goodbyes tender and severe

I stand seeing light 

Wondering, sweetly

Hoping, dreaming, holding on

Deliciously free

Air-tight

28 Apr

I am different
a sinking soul
overflowing
an air tight container
of the past
a twisted soft serve
of dark and light

I am different
a sparkling skinny belt
cinching at the waist
lighting up the world
dancing, twirling
the world in complete oblivion
believes in the light and its luminescence

I am different
sliced in half
my insides spill out
inky and bloody
a gore that’s hard to look away from
circled by a strong outer layer
one that holds it in so tight
that even air won’t pass through

I am different

From Afar

27 Apr
From afar I see
the brilliant sparkle
traveling down the river
carried by the loving wind

From afar I feel 
the sadness that wraps around the bend
the anger bouncing up and down
waiting for its release

From afar I tread
lightly sometimes
with love other times
firmly always

From afar I stand
wishing I could blindly accept
wishing I could forget
those words
the pointy, cutting, deep
words
wishing I didn’t desire
it—

your acceptance
your understanding
your validation

From afar I am
without you
without cold words
without the sparkle
bare
healing slowly
healing
moving forward
the only direction I can

The Hard Release

26 Apr cropped-img_0429.jpg

Walking through a field of sinking sand
I push hard for clarity
it doesn’t matter
those words don’t matter
I will not let them attach to my body
Weighted feet remind me of what’s behind me and what’s ahead
dodging bombs on a minefield, I move forward—
the only direction I know about
Hardened muscles–sore
pull me slowly
painfully
reminding me with each step
that I can,
I should
drop it all
It’s not mine to carry
and yet, I didn’t, I don’t know
how to completely detach myself
Turmoil festers inside
growing into a large tumor
spreading it’s wings into every cell
of my DNA
spiraling through my insides
happily damaging through and through
back against the earth
I look up into the eyes of the sun
warmth creeps into the first layer
lightening it
releasing a piece of hard
reminding me to let go
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