Leaving Yuba City: Poems
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Like Divakaruni's much-loved and bestselling short story collection Arranged Marriage, this collection of poetry deals with India and the Indian experience in America, from the adventures of going to a convent school in India run by Irish nuns (Growing up in Darjeeling) to the history of the earliest Indian immigrants in the U.S. (Yuba City Poems).
Groups of interlinked poems divided into six sections are peopled by many of the same characters and explore varying themes. Here, Divakaruni is particularly interested in how different art forms can influence and inspire each other. One section, entitled Indian Miniatures, is based on and named after a series of paintings by Francesco Clemente. Another, called Moving Pictures, is based on Indian films, including Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay" and Satyajit Ray's "Ghare Baire." Photographs by Raghubir Singh inspired the section entitled Rajasthani. The trials and tribulations of growing up and immigration are also considered here and, as with all of Divakaruni's writing, these poems deal with the experience of women and their struggle to find identities for themselves.
This collection is touched with the same magic and universal appeal that excited readers of Arranged Marriage. In Leaving Yuba City, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni proves once again her remarkable literary talents.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
curtains shiver with the silhouettes. My nails are cat-claws on the panes. Tinkle of glass, a sharp curse, thick men-sounds like falling. After a long time my feet find the way to the street-children. They let me lie with them on newspaper beds, do not ask why. My face tight against the tea boy’s cool brown spine. My arms. I, Manju. All the dark burns with the small animal sounds from my mother’s throat. The Makers of Chili Paste After Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala The old fort on the hill is now
the current cool, pressing up against your thighs. As if the alley has no end. Feel. On your forehead, misted air like petals. Like the sound of wings. Like the breath of the dead, a blessing. Note Hindu widows traditionally wear white. Skin I woke this morning with a tingling all over my body, not unpleasant, kind of like it feels between your teeth after you’ve poked at your gum with something for a while, and when I looked I discovered I had no skin. I was disconcerted for a moment, but
the two of us left alone in a bed smelling of crushed flowers. Outside the cheers and yells rise to a crescendo, the sound of bottles breaking. Manuela opens her arms and I look down at her, but suddenly there’s nothing there, nothing except black emptiness like a crack in the earth after years of no rain. I stumble to the washroom. A fist pounds my heart. Red spots behind my eyes grow into a wash of blood. I plunge my head into the bucket, and water fills my nostrils like cool silver so I don’t
Punjabi, who will have to ask someone to translate the lines and curves, the bewildering black slashes she has left behind? She walks down the steps in the dark, counting them. Nineteen, twenty. The years of her life. She steps lightly on them, as though they have not been cut into her heart, as though she can so easily leave them behind. She puts her hand on the front door, steeling herself for the inevitable creak, for someone to wake and shout, kaun hai? For the pepper trees to betray her,
the wet metal taste of fear or lust. Even in that Darjeeling air, cold as the breath of icebergs, sweat sprouted between our clamped palms, our guilty fingers left moist streaks on the white blouses of our dancing partners. For years we had watched from dark dormitory windows the Senior girls filing into the bus that gleamed yellow as a warning through the night. Long after they left, we smelled their perfume in the hollows of our bodies. Their starched ruffles scratched our throats, our breasts.