The Sun and Her Flowers (9 page)

advice i would've given

my mother on her wedding day

  1. you are allowed to say
  2. years ago his father beat the language of love
    out of your husband's back
    he will never know how to say it
    but his actions prove he loves you
  3. go with him
    when he enters your body and goes to that place
    sex is not dirty
  4. no matter how many times his family brings it up
    do not have the abortion just because i'm a girl
    lock the relatives out and swallow the key
    he will not hate you
  5. take your journals and paintings
    across the ocean when you leave
    these will remind you who you are
    when you get lost amid new cities
    they will also remind your children
    you had an entire life before them
  6. when your husbands are off
    working at the factories
    make friends with all the other
    lonely women in the apartment complex
    this loneliness will cut a person in half
    you will need each other to stay alive
  7. your husband and children will take from your plate
    we will emotionally and mentally starve you
    all of it is wrong
    don't let us convince you that
    sacrificing yourself is
    how you must show love
  8. when your mother dies
    fly back for the funeral
    money comes and goes
    a mother is once in a lifetime
  9. you are allowed to spend
    a couple dollars on a coffee
    i know there was a time when
    we could not afford it
    but we are okay now. breathe.
  10. you can't speak english fluently
    or operate a computer or cell phone
    we did that to you. it is not your fault.
    you are not any less than the
    other mothers with their
    flashy phones and designer clothing
    we confined you to the four walls of this home
    and worked you to the bone
    you have not been your own property for decades
  11. there was no rule book for how
    to be the first woman in your lineage
    to raise a family on a strange land by yourself
  12. you are the person i look up to most
  13. when i am about to shatter
    i think of your strength
    and harden
  14. i think you are a magician
  15. i want to fill the rest of your life with ease
  16. you are the hero of heroes
    the god of gods

in a dream

i saw my mother

with the love of her life

and no children

it was the happiest i'd ever seen her

what if

you split the world

into pieces and

called them countries

declared ownership on

what never belonged to you

and left the rest with nothing


my parents never sat us down in the evenings to share stories of their younger days. one was always working. the other too tired. perhaps being an immigrant does that to you.

the cold terrain of the north engulfed them. their bodies were hard at work paying in blood and sweat for their citizenship. perhaps the weight of the new world was too much. and the pain and sorrow of the old was better left buried.

i do wish i had unburied it though. i wish i'd pried their silence apart like a closed envelope. i wish i'd found a small opening at its very edge. pushed a finger inside and gently torn it open. they had an entire life before me which i am a stranger to. it would be my greatest regret to see them leave this place before i even got to know them.

my voice

is the offspring

of two countries colliding

what is there to be ashamed of

if english

and my mother tongue

made love

my voice

is her father's words

and mother's accent

what does it matter if

my mouth carries two worlds


for years they were separated by oceans

left with nothing but little photographs of each other

smaller than passport-size photos

hers was tucked into a golden locket

his slipped inside his wallet

at the end of the day

when their worlds went quiet

studying them was their only intimacy

this was a time long before computers

when families in that part of the world

had not seen a telephone or laid their

almond eyes on a colored television screen

long before you and i

as the wheels of the plane touched tarmac

she wondered if this was the place

had she boarded the right flight

should've asked the air hostess twice

like her husband suggested

walking into baggage claim

her heart beat so heavy

she thought it might fall out

eyes darting in every direction

searching for what to do next when


right there

in the flesh

he stood

not a mirage—a man

first came relief

then bewilderment

they'd imagined this reunion for years

had rehearsed their lines

but her mouth seemed to forget

she felt a kick in her stomach

when she saw the shadows circling his eyes

and shoulders carrying an invisible weight

it looked like the life had been drained out of him

where was the person she had wed

she wondered

reaching for the golden locket

the one with the photo of the man

her husband did not look like anymore

the new world had drained him

what if

there isn't enough time

to give her what she deserves

do you think

if i begged the sky hard enough

my mother's soul would

return to me as my daughter

so i can give her

the comfort she gave me

my whole life

i want to go back in time and sit beside her. document her in a home movie so my eyes can spend the rest of their lives witnessing a miracle. the one whose life i never think of before mine. i want to know what she laughed about with friends. in the village within houses of mud and brick. surrounded by acres of mustard plant and sugarcane. i want to sit with the teenage version of my mother. ask about her dreams. become her pleated braid. the black kohl caressing her eyelids. the flour neatly packed into her fingertips. a page in her schoolbooks. even to be a single thread of her cotton dress would be the greatest gift.

to witness a miracle


he takes the newborn girl from his wife

carries her to the neighboring room

cradles her head with his left hand

and gently snaps her neck with his right


a wet towel to wrap her in

grains of rice and

sand in the nose

a mother shares the trick with her daughter-in-law

i had to do it
she says

as did my mother

and her mother before her


a newspaper article reads

a hundred baby girls were found buried

behind a doctor's house in a neighboring village

the wife wonders if that's where he took her

she imagines her daughter becoming the soil

fertilizing the roots that feed this country


oceans away in a toronto basement

a doctor performs an illegal abortion

on an indian woman who already has a daughter

one is burden enough
she says


it's easier than you think
my aunties tell my mother

they know a family

who've done it three times

they know a clinic. they could get mumma the number.

the doctor even prescribes pills that guarantee a boy.

they worked for the woman down the street
they say

now she has three sons


twelve hospitals in the toronto area

refuse to reveal a baby's gender to expecting families

until the thirtieth week of pregnancy

all twelve hospitals are located in areas with high south asian immigrant populations

female infanticide | female feticide

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