Shuvra Das: 3 poems

Model Minority’s 8:46

As the white knees crushed the black man's throat,
for four hundred years
you were not interested,
you said "I am only social and cultural."

As the white knees crushed the black man's throat,
in broad daylight,
you said,  "I am godly,
running late for my weekly prayers."

As the white knees crushed the black man's throat
you said you were busy,
black man's sports is on TV,
and the jazz concert plays.

As the white knees crushed the black man's throat
you said you believe in non-violence just like Gandhi,
why all the looting and riots? And oh, by the way,
"All Lives Matter!"

As the white knees crushed this black man's throat
and he cried, "I can't breathe,"
you said I think he is on drugs,
just like all of them always are.

As the white knees crushed this black man's throat
and he whimpered, "Please, don't kill me,"
you said "the drama queen
will likely die of Corona."

The white knees crushed this black man's throat and
as his last breath got lost in the maze of the cracks in the
concrete he called for his dead mama, "mama!!"
Can you close your model-minority eyes for a minute,
get your manicured brown hands together
just like you do every week in prayer before your god,
and imagine, even only for a moment,
that your uncle or brother or son or father just called,
for one final time?

The Help

They came for many reasons:
some came hungry,
the death of a parent brought some,
perhaps one, a recent widow or
another, abandoned by her man,
or some mere children, sent by desperate parents to seek work.

They came wide-eyed, eager
for a few rupees at the end of the month,
and for the daily meals.
And in exchange, the affection that remained unshared
with their loved ones,
that same love, that same care
they learned to bestow on strangers.

We called them by different names;
some answered to Ruma,
some to Gouri, Shayamali, Buri, Ponchomi, Bulti, Sabita, Kajal-
and some to Sikha, Savitri -
though their beginnings were with small chores
they are now indispensable
to the parents of emigrated children...

In making the morning breakfast,
in hauling home weekly groceries,
in cleaning dirty dishes,
in counting out pain medicines
or for a sudden call to the doctor;
and, of course, once a week when
their children call from far-off lands -
to put the telephone into the hands of
eager parents
- these women do it all.

The children come by once a year;
they fuss for a few days and as they leave
press some bills into the hands of the help
and say: "watch them well, please!!"
And then?

And then-
At the end of the drudgery,
at the end of the wearying daily grind
as their dreams are crushed every evening
in front of numbing TV-shows,
perhaps they dream of a next incarnation,
a new birth, as an expatriate.

We all look alike

As I bounce around between the snack-rack 
and the soda-fountain in the college cafeteria
there is a gentle tap on my shoulder. 

Like a child caught with a mouthful of candy,  
I come face to face with an administrator.
"Soon you will get back those documents, " I hear.

My muzzled expression and puzzled silence 
clearly irritates this busy leader 
on a mission to grab the right sandwich.

"Remember, " she continues in earnest, 
"those union contract mark-ups, 
that you sent over last week!"

Sensing a much too familiar occurrence 
happening again, I try to hide my smirk, 
"I think you should talk to Prasad, not me."

A long awkward pause is followed by some
spontaneous eyebrow raising, and a whiff of anger,
"Oh! Then who are you?"

Originally from Kolkata, India, Shuvra Das came to the US as a graduate student in 1985 and finished his Ph.D. in Engineering from Iowa State University.  Since 1994, he has been working as a professor in Detroit.  He loves reading, writing, painting, and photography.  He published five books in engineering and his creative efforts in English and Bengali have been published in magazines such as The Antonym, Batayan, The Balcony, Sahitya Cafe, Banglalive, Irabotee, etc.

See Tyler Alpern


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