Moving tempo

Box on box on cart on wheel on dusty
Basement floor. I packed this up last night, just
To bring it here and take it out once more.
I find sheets and blankets your grandparents
Gave us. I put them away to never
See them again. The tile yields packages,
So many that I don't know which ones I
Closed to open. Didn't I already
Uncrate these books and these jars and pictures?
Or am I thinking of the last time I
Beat out this exhausting ostinato?

Somehow in the ferrying, my table
Cast off two of its four legs. Inside my
Inside ear, I can hear you telling me
That it cannot stand on just the two left.
I don't understand why, and you tell me
That it cannot stand because the table
Has no brain
. I chuckle to myself as
I screw the two remaining legs in place.
I get the table upright but I can't
Force it to stand on its own. It falls hard.
It cracks the tile, and I hear you tell me,
See, it couldn't balance without a brain.

Table and legs and crack, all on the tile.
I'd hoped this time, at least the floor would last,
Until I'd had the chance to spend one night.
Maybe I'll have better luck the next time
That I pack and unpack to this rhythm.



Father arrived in nineteen-eighty one.
I was in the making eight years yet.
Cold, wearing most likely dusty linen,
He came not on a boat but on a plane,

With so much hope that there would still be land
There for the taking.
He blindly traversed
The Atlantic, guiding Amma’s little hands.
Together, they conquered a live ocean.

They came and lived in a basement for months.
They were tired, it was cold, mushkil kham he.
They had to repeat some completed education,
They found new hospital fellowships.

He went to Toronto, she to DC.
He spent hours alone, empty pockets,
Looking at goods in Kmart, not buying,
But with nothing else to help him pass time.

She drove to work wearing a baseball hat,
To hide herself from those inclined to watch.
They slept on mattresses with no sheets and
Ate barely heated food straight from the can.

It was slow, but they were used to mushkil kham.
Just a few years later, they could to move to a better place.
Then, when the girls and I started to run on gravel streets,
They saved enough, we moved for the final time, we thought.

They had built a house, made children, beautiful.
They finally achieved the comfort of
Their dreams, a temple on a hill, and
Briefly, we sat in the chairs on the throne.

But somewhere in that kham kharab hogja.
Amma wasn’t willing to be lead, and
Father was too tired to notice what
Needed to be attended to at home.

He had pushed the heart out of himself, as doctors
Are often apt to do, so they gave up.
And we were forced out of the Mandir
That they made, as they pushed themselves apart.

Father is old, and he still calls me at ten,
At eleven o’clock, when I am toiling more
Than they had wanted me to, while so young --
The hospital calls him back to play death.

I want to tell him he is a silly
Old man,
and should just get in bed to sleep --
But we have bhoth mushkil kam these days
Just as they did in the beginning.

So, instead, I tell him to drive safely in the night,
I can’t talk, there is much left to be done,
This hard work to be done,
Before we can return to a house on a hill.


Copyright © 2010 Roheeni Saxena


Roheeni Saxena is a young poet working out of Washington, DC, where she was born and raised. Her work typically explores themes of mutability and transience, as well as her experiences as the daughter of Indian
immigrants. She can be reached at roheeni.saxena(at) for further inquiries.