poem: masala

She was shot seven times on her way out of a New York mosque. She landed on her backpack, which was full of trinkets she’d brought home from a week in India, as well as the last blanket she would ever make out on under a willow that on that breathless Tuesday did not seem so weepy. Her belly was still grinning from the first breakfast she’d cooked without repeatedly making sure the front door was locked, and her tabby cat knelt at her bare feet, less from necessity than habit.

The good news is that this death could count as the last check mark on her list, written four years earlier, before she believed she’d actually get any of it done. Check one: go to India. She’d bought every dance CD she could find and needed to breathe Bollywood firsthand, her tongue begging for the masala wrath of Shiva. She returned finally able to recite a prayer her mother never knew. Check two: make out on a blanket. It sounds simple, but every lover she’d held had a disdain for PDA. One lover expressed discomfort at the thought of losing himself under a willow; it did not seem like a good omen to kiss under a tree that was crying.

Check three: take back the peace of mornings before she’d met that stalker. He always seemed to know when she was making breakfast and her cat would hiss at the door. She would scream that she’s calling the cops and the creep would scamper away. This was five years ago but she’d still wilt when her lover wouldn’t stay the night. Check four: visit a mosque. It seemed odd that she never had and now the fever about a community center muddied the shine of feeling American. She wanted to show that not everyone insisted on using only half of the alphabet and playing Mozart with their drunkest hand. She thanked a god that could morph into whatever color of kiss she needed, in that moment of that day of a week that started in the back trunk of hell, and whether she returned to this place or not she felt that at least one star was unburied.

Check five: return to innocence. Even if only for a moment, it was the last gasp she wanted, and who could predict the timing of her exit from that New York mosque, the Moses in the eye of the madman that aimed to prove whose country this was. His .38 caliber staff sent a hail of locusts through the chests of anyone pouring through that front door. How could she predict that this is the way she’d find the infant of her heart, to be pierced by a savior that wore no cologne, with a hail of lips and bite so natural she never saw it coming.

At the moment this is happening, in the bedroom of another state, I am refusing to write a letter to the lady that has crept nearest to my tripwire. I’m not ready to write any lists. It implies I’ll be here long enough to get even half of it done.

The good news was that no one was near enough to notice her glow as her backpack cushioned her fall to the ground, the flicker of masala that graced her lips, the calm of a blanket too wet to crease a goodbye, the headline of a newspaper too enamored with terror to witness the slow drips of a list, the thank you exhaled to no one, the willow, still raining the weight of Shiva.

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