my father lived in India

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my father is a man of many colors.

on the nights when the moon stays asleep,

he lotions his palms with pomegranate juice.

 

the sugared blood pools in the creases of his

skin and stains it India’s red.

 

sometimes, my father scrubs his hands until

they are nothing but flesh & fruit rinds.

 

when he was younger - all skinned knees and pocket

knives - he must've slipped on a thousand marbles.

my father’s father was a welder who rolled and spun

steel into tiny spheres.

 

when he died, my father’s hands became blue and free of pocket

knives. to this day, he keeps a bag of marbles on our mantle.

 

from time to time, he shakes the cool metal into 

his open palms and waterfalls it back and forth.

 

this is the problem with blue hands:

they never let go of the things that scar them.

they try so hard to be red again.

 

my father doesn't like whistling because

an old woman in India told him it was uncivilized.

she perched herself on the edge of the Ganges River

and kneaded dough with hands of stone.

 

my father's hands were so calloused and bumpy, worn

from the years he spent cradling marbles and pomegranates,

so she taught him to smoothen his skin by soaking it in

the river and practicing henna on the rough patches.

 

in the creases where pomegranate juice once

gathered was now India’s orange blood.

 

my father was the most deliberate artist.

armed with a camelhair brush gifted to him

by a local who is somewhere far off, he softened

himself by painting and repainting the same flesh.

now, the old woman on the Ganges has eggshell hands.

she rests on a bed of banyan leaves and floats through

the heart of the river, teaching men how to calm their

skin with the breath of India.

 

for the span of a thousand moons, my father washed his hands

in the banks of the water, jingled a bag of marbles, and whistled

a tune that only red, blue, and orange could understand. 

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