Monday, March 13, 2006

An unpoem, for my father.

It's been a while, old man,
since ive sat down and thought about
what would happen
if we made silence,
or if I tried to
buy my plane tickets, alone.

It's no joke: I am 21, and vij is... well, older.
You can no longer pick me up in your arms
or play tennis.

Today you mailed me
asking about PYRIDOSTIGMINE.
You typed it like that, all caps and serious query,
like I am that M.D daughter you dreamt of,
but don't miss-- much. The email didnt smell of mum
or bank account boyfriend smoking queries. You asked me
like I could know, and could heal.

It's for a hereditary disease that one day
may get my hands shaking,
even if I aint reaching for your arms and grizzled jowl
at the Nobel awards night, some graduation, or vij's wedding.

You must take 60mg, 4 times a day.
Don't miss even one dose. Like all those nights
you reminded me about taking off my contact lens
when I growled "later" and you growled back "now",
let me remind you across an ocean, and over a phone,
waking you up in the middle of your nap that
its 4 times a day.

Mum sounded like a little girl
when she told me
they might have to remove your thymus.
I told her, the thymus is like
a fish bone
a tooth
a corn
an ingrown toenail
a precious stamp
a grease stain. Like spinach caught in her teeth.

She tried to believe me. She even smiled.
But now the thymus can stay,
and she guards your diet
like cerberus guards eurydice.

Remember that night after your bypass?
Silent, smiling, and knocked out,
you tried tasting that fish pie-- my first attempt, that I brought with me to the ward--
past tubes and anesthesia.

Remember that night you tripped and fell down?
Goliath. Windmills. WTO towers. Oldest oak.
Mum and vij were all cool water, bp checks and frowns.
I sat at your scrawny, mottled feet and laughed at you.
They snapped, but you rumbled low, and grinned,
waiting to get your bearings back.

Remember convocation, when I didn't get the medal?
Your face held more misery than mine ever would;
It was the pain of Priam for Troy;
I was angry that you had wanted to be there.
You didn't look at the certificates I got.
When all I believed in choked in my throat, forcing me to throw up
silence hatred and cold fingers,
you drove home. Angry for me-- O knight, Sir Pops.
My blood pressured cavalry, you took me down from the cross
and carried me home.

Remember that night I got my first whitlow?
I lay on your big whale of a belly, tiny hands and feet clinging to your warmth,
crying like I could cry only at that age. You stayed up with me,
and let my exhausted ma sleep.
I remember that, though I have forgotten algebra.

my confirmation
my investiture
my opening performance
the day vij left to go be a man
you teaching me how to hold a razor
me balancing on the cycle without your hands
listening to Zeppelin 4 together
telling each other to leave the house the room the country
looking at your surgery diagram
setting up your email address
putting my suitcases in the trunk
sipping the cognac you once said you'd keep for my wedding
but then raising a glass of it like comrades
the night chacko uncle came to visit,
the year we both silently figured
that a wedding might not happen.

When I asked you why my chest was getting bigger,
and why you weren't with mum when I was born
(instead you sat near a phone miles away with
an empty bottle of chivas through the night)
you never paused once. Never looked troubled.
Just like all the times I begged you to stop
singing in B flat during Amazing Grace,
Your answer came smoothly. Unmusical. And with faith.

"How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me"

I search for symptoms online, read the literature
and tell you and mum not to worry.
In your voice, I hear the restful pride of the grizzly spirit
that has kept this native indian safe
for 21 years.

And the only thing I have to say is, old man--
Don't go gently anywhere. Forget the lovely dark woods,
and the journeys in your blood and mine.

Stay home.

I miss your crooked knees already:
your harmonious burps, your morning paper
and the way you eat papaya for breakfast.
I miss you already,
and the email says you sent it
only 10 minutes ago.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Outstanding. Here via Amit Verma's blog, and glad I made the journey.


Gaurav said...

Wow. That's the most awesome poem I've read in a while. Keep writing. All the best.

Quizman said...

Saw this linked in Amit Varma's blog. Great poem. Very moving.

Lakshmi said...

Very nice, indeed.


Hep Cee said...

Nice nice nice. I was trolling for souls and words, and you've got both. Nice. Keep writing.


Smith said...


woman wandering said...

A beautiful stunning poem.

Shankar said...

Brilliant Priyanka.

? said...

brought a tear to my eye.

have taken the liberty of putting it on my blog. with due credits ofcourse.

in the event you would like me to remove it (copyright concerns), please let me know, and it shall be done.

Wishing to Inspire. said...

I love your poem, it is so honest and real, it reminds me of growing up so much...

akhil said...

remarkably well-written!

david raphael israel said...

nice music effects P


Batul said...

Priyanka, Speechless. Wordless. Your unpoem is all the words I wish I could have said to my father. Thanks for connecting.

Mayank Krishna said...

Simply amazing!! So touching!!

rubbersoul said...



Manish Bhatt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manish Bhatt said...

Hey Priyanka, I have taken the liberting of linking you to my blog at Hoping you won't wind.

Born to be wild said...


Mr.Joseph.. You should be really proud of this daughter of yours.

For she has touched many hearts..

Do we find an ability of her bringing souls to the Lord like her grandad..Since she is able to touch hearts and bring out emotion...

But let us let her do the work like how Bob marley conveys gospel..

Great work..

disco papaya said...

so its quarter to three in the morning. i was aimlessly blog hopping, and then it struck me. it had been wayy too long.

do i dare tell you this is great? will my words ever do justice to yours?

na, i highly doubt it.

(this is great, really.)

sd said...

First time here. Stunning.

suniti said...

Whats can I say ? Words fail me.
Thanks for writing this one.

Stray Angel said...

wow. that was beautiful. loved the ending.

Stray Angel said...

wow. that was beautiful. loved the ending.

Primalsoup said...

What a fabulously written piece!

Shilpa F D'Mello said...

amazing priyanka!! very personal but i cud map the feelings to my life...

noThiNG but "fiCUs" said...

I have a lump in my throat after reading this. It was scary, deep and depressingly good. Its level of maturity makes me feel as if I am still an adolescent - it feels like i have lived my life in illusion while dis poem reeks of reality.

Anonymous said...

PJ!! my lovely junior... Pif salut to thee my girl...
This is a poem only daddy's lil angel can write... worship and adoration to you love...
Fabulous fabulous stuff...