Saturday Poem

Reetika Vazirani

And this is hunger:
     beans & rice
     beans & rice.

A pang for a meal. You’re broke.
Sweet butter on challah. In the eighties,
you had money, everybody did
until the stock market crash
when the lucky got richer.
Spiced chicken on flat wheat,
the chef at Kebabish
cooking for you. An immigrant with no papers
cooking just for you.
The drizzle & snap of oil on fire,
cumin bursting into pelao, biryani.

You rave, a deported illegal
wandering into the night air
sniffing the streets for gravy.
You are nearly crazy with the hint of it.
Keep walking.

It is Main Street & you’re a citizen.
Remember the ceremony
& all the coca-cola & hot dogs afterwards?
Or try to imagine your old life.
Being a saleslady in Virginia
is far preferable
to the old way of life
that you lived when you were a queen
called Rani in your native country & the servants
fanned you night & day when you
snapped your fingers.