Bio Note: As a retired teacher, I enjoy writing narrative poetry, preserving mostly family memories and experiences of my home in India, and my present home in Canada. The highlight of the year was to have a poem of mine featured in the 2021 Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English. Two other recent anthologies, Shape of a Poem and Witness (Poetry of Dissent), have published my poems as well. The poems in Verse-Virtual have provided much enjoyment and inspiration and I look forward to each issue.
This is the City
After the Nursery Rhyme, This is the house that Jack Built. This is the city my father loved That he called home, that wrote his poems, That created the slums, that built the skyscrapers That jammed the trains, that crowded the buses Where he walked the streets - that somebody built. This is the city that I have loved Where I was born where I was raised Where I ran for the buses, in four-inch heels Danced in discos all night long, studied in the colleges, sang in choirs Dated the boys, then married a man - that I loved. This is the city where I lived by the sea Ate street food, shopped fiercely, listened to Rock music Read Enid Blyton, Ayn Rand, borrowed from friends, Practiced for Sports Day, studied for exams - that I did not love. This is the city that I have left, I know not why, I cannot remember This is the city lodged in my soul, something stuck in a tooth, I cannot remove. This is the city that I still love, with its dust and grime, will always be mine That I must in Hindi call Bombay Meri Jaan, meaning Bombay my love A city whose name I no longer can pronounce - that is now called Mumbai.
Bombay Fish Market
Here the entire sea Comes in with the fish Wet, Wet, Wet, Everything is wet The stench, indescribable! Bell-bottoms and flipflops Not appropriate apparel In a Bombay fish market. Mother scolds me for making Poor dress choices. The fisherwomen loaded with gold ornaments Jasmine flowers in their hair Call out in raucous voices, The fish wear sad expressions Lying on stone slabs In salt sea-water. Mother bargains with her usual style The fisherwoman says I’ll sell you the fish cheap if you give your daughter’s hand in marriage to my son. That was the last time I went to the fish market with Mother. Fish curry at home erases The fish market experience. Still the enjoyment of the curry Comes tinged with a bit of guilt Sadness for the fish On the stone slabs, their eyes follow me. Father takes me to the Aquarium A once-in-a-while treat. A better place to admire fish. Still my preference is to go down to the sea with him Where I dream of writing a poem like John Masefield’s Sea Fever. The fish are at home in the ocean That travels the shores of my city. I wish for everything Masefield desires Unlike him, I am afraid of the sea.
©2021 Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca
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