I am two years ten months old,
beloved first-born: am told my face
is open as windows, my smiles gems
of happiness, when baby sister is born.
I remember being taken to visit
Amma and the wrinkly new baby
too in the hospital, in the morning, right
before I have to go to Mrs. Pinto’s “school.”
And I remember the chill of nerves
the clunky thump of suspense, feeling
so sneaking clever when–patting her tenderly,
I tell my parents: “Baby sister—Chelli Paapa—
is so, so beautiful; I don’t want to go to school.”
My ploy creeps on, it has lived many lives
it has floated past memory’s borders,
the recall slowly fading.
When I retell it now, on this whole other continent,
my own kids chortle, roll their eyes, call me
“playa.” My face is a window, is a mirror,
my face is a door that lets the lie in.
But my parents have told this story for decades,
in a haze of earnestness, claimed ‘blessings
—love or beauty or children, or the hazy
necessity of whatever comes next.
Prathim Maya Dora-Laskey teaches English Literature and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Alma College (MI) after graduate school on three continents. An alumna of Stella Maris College in Chennai, her awards include scholarships from the Pennathur foundation, the FSA board at the University of South Carolina, and a Violet Morgan Vaughan award at the University of Oxford. A poetry editor at JaggeryLit Magazine and a current moderator at SAWNET (south Asian women’s net @ sawnet.org), she has published work in Contemporary South Asia, Interventions: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies, South Asian Review, and Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. Her poetry has previously appeared in Yemassee, Mirror Magazine, Cerebrations, and a few anthologies.