Love Letter to the Biryani at Wahid’s, or A Joyous Poem in the Center
Sheets of stapled steel
fashion a fast shelter
for the city’s appetites. Hungry,
hungered, & hungering, may all
in one night in these dense tendrils be
converged. From all its next-doors,
more spills onto the ear than the eye
can hold. The air here saturates
in whole spice, steepening as moon
shine on iridescent cartop. Drama
is not my intention, but you must
feel, we are in the sacred sweat
of the work weary, honoring our flesh.
These pots of rice steeped in clove,
cardamom, saffron, chili, first baked
as famine relief for laboring masses,
then brought to the nawab’s kitchen,
still now engorge a congregation.
You, everyday divine, bring so many
onto your street tonight. Mine is not
a unique love, much hinges on its sharing.
We dissolve so many debts at this
hour, fevered by our desire for you.
Poha, now as TSA Subject
Thursday, one of those blustery Chicago
mornings when no scarf obeys the ridges
of the body, we walked 4 miles to Jewel-Osco
to find it all taken over by thanksgiving hordes.
When green beans were nowhere to be found,
you shaped the small cavity of your palm
soft against my flaring spine, walked me over
to the freezers. Later that evening I learnt
that when boiled, flash frozen foods return
glibly to their cut-short childhoods as fruits
just pulled from earth. That night we devoured
a measured feast, humbled by our frail bodies
and their insurgent failings. On Friday, water
filled to our knees as we trudged dutifully through
Macy’s & Bath & Body Works & Zara, relucted
against the good sense of savings still meaning
many swipes of plastic cards. On Saturday, the tide
finally fell. Lake Michigan, filled as though with our
turbulent greed, broke relentlessly against
the concrete embankment. Its ambient splatter
lulled us to low harmonies all day. We woke
and ate food paused from its usual rotting
and cooked this poha for our separate homes.
Packed in my carry-on, I dreamt the box flash
froze something of our weekend’s childhood.
At TSA, a well-humoured white man pulled
it out for further screening and shook its narrow
ecosystem and dismantled its memories. When
I ate it this morning, it only told me of the deceit
in the promise that I could own any graspable thing not
always available to the scoping hands of a uniformed man.