I remember when dida1 fed us syllables
for breakfast, steeped in syrup,
smooth. We feared silence
like hunger, craved language
like sweet honey, pulled prepositions
from the air with sticky hands
to fill our empty stomachs. Mmm—you turned
to me, crunching on a verb—that was
a good one. We kept on feasting.
There is no verb to be in Bengali.
I know you feared your being balanced
on the spaces between vowels, suspended
like swings. You filled those spaces
with amnesia, pretended
you were full, hid your hunger
in mouthfuls. Do you remember when
you starved for a day because
you forgot how to say you were hungry?
Our stomachs are full now.
Our tongues carve caves in the bridges of
our mouths—emptying our abdomens
in pools, translating our shouts
into shivers—and you tell me it is time
to flick words from lips like elastic,
to pluck each stray sound, syllable
from our throats. I tell you I am sorry
that I forgot to remind you.
1 The Bengali word for grandmother.