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Letter from a Daughter

Shaleena Koruth

There is no sign of me on the road. 

you look for the plumber 

who keeps his promise  

and arrives to fix your sink. You wash your face 

put on a kettle.  

You cannot hear my voice 

in those far-away rooms of your youth, 

those nights, those parties 

when I climbed into your bed 

and fell asleep, waiting for you to tiptoe in,  

the cold in your cheek, your stilettos in your hands, 

my father behind you, the car keys ringing in his pockets. 

Yes I know, 

you want to claw your heart 

and excise that need,  

those memories that looked like promises — 

They were never meant to be that way. 


You have waited for understanding 

longer than you will ever wait for me. 

On that same road,  

beyond the paddy sheaves  

that the wind shimmers through 

beyond the black gravel edges cutting triangles into the dark, 

beyond the screaming crickets 

that frame the many headed night, 

is the echo of your need for me. 

It comes home to you. 

It is written into your face  

staring back through the glass panes 

on the door you designed and had priced, 

the door you had the carpenters bid upon, 

the door you drew into the blueprint for the house, 

the door that warps in the April heat 

and will not slide as you would like it to. 


miles appear as clusters of light and dark 

        that flash and signal from below. 

        my face pressed to an oval, 

        my stomach balled into a fist, 

Are you in your car?  



Has anyone asked? 

        and whom will you tell. 

        Better to say, 

        Are you home safe. 

        Drop the qualifiers. 


Days and nights teemed, 

        have become arrays on a calendar, 

        to fill with things to do and  

        places to be. 

        Know that I will never forget. 

        That photo, your face, beautiful with your  

        black hair in a knot, 

        the gleam of silk, your mustard sari, 

        my brother and I on either side in pajamas. 

        Father’s favorite picture of you. 


In a sense we are both mid-air,  

        to look forward one must have 

        looked back, you once said. 

Why are you surprised? 


Perhaps this will be your last lesson to me —  

on how mothers wait and accept,  

how we learn to question no longer, 

what we have always known. 


And how we look forward, 

after looking at.


Shaleena Koruth is a journalist and writer. She holds an MFA in creative writing in fiction from Rutgers University-Newark. She writes about women who move between borders, in the countries they inhabit physically and emotionally.