Instructions for Banno: How to be seen (Biji)
BY KIRAN BATH
Cellphones? We shouted across rooftops. Our houses bent in Mahal arches. Lives on display in pishtaq frames. I could make the village a moving miniature painting. Infinitesimal. Women air drying phulkaris. Crowded beards in morning mirrors. Sardarjis -binding and tucking their cotton crowns. I would wonder about synchronicity. To see and be seen. Knowing gold as mustard flowers. Entire fields. Running. The buffalos. Their milk the creamiest. Strained for impurities. My little girl heart. Flocks of holy men. To see. The swaying. I knew light as the shine in oiled plaits. Swinging. I saw distance as wind. The branches with our secrets. Knowing honor in veils. To be seen. A lowered gaze. How earth colors screamed. Spinach chopped, carpets beat, grains flipped. The gazelle eyed girl. All of 9. Gazing from cinquefoil windows. To see. A boy walk through to get to the next room. It didn’t matter who. Synchronicity. Her father a witness. Who else had looked on? He led the girl to the fields. To be unseen. No such thing. Simply silence. A painting ruined. The setting sun taking back the mustard gold. Her body a feather. Restoration. Honor. Even for a girl who hadn’t begun to bleed. To see. How she must have bled out in the end. What counted was izzat. To be seen. Beyond reproach. Could you say that for yourself with your hair all loose like that girl?
• A girl is a gun that may go off at any time.
Instructions for Banno: How to return (Deepu to Nikki)
BY KIRAN BATH
Say time is non-linear. Say here we collapse planes, enter at even age. Choose 23 (ornaments, early confidence). In this version you’re not married off. In this version Schrödinger renders me hapful centaur. If we are made only of mothers this is how, half breasted half marwari. Enchanted. What wine collects in me to fill your never-to-be husband’s place. And you’re softer for it. Yes. All that lilac.The browbridge. As for orientation, it’s Paris again. As for phonetics, it’s Rue de [ ] with gurmukhi ŗaaŗaa. I don’t vex with fire or blush. No, I roll you cigarettes, yes the wands, you cough out entire silhouettes – bas. A song our early parts know and hear the temperature is just so we recount the scents of honest men. You taste apricots as color. Your Sundays are lust and musk. In this version you know love like a garden fruit. Tended. Our nightfall hair propagates to junipers. We go dancing in anarkalis. Parisiennes onlooking. Always on the way home. You ride the polite Valencia of midnight lamps. Pilgrimage. We fill the listening dark. I came here to know you like this.
• Return to drink from this well.
Instructions for Banno: Who to Worship (Deepu)
BY KIRAN BATH
The black boys.* The wattle brush. How many gods should she worship at once? Nanak as she rises. Jesus for school hours. The uniforms spilling out. Seated during communion. Hands outstretched for palmists and parsad. She wants a second helping. Jesus exits. A longing to be chosen by cream faced girls. Fibs woven of angel vision. What she really sees is inner colors. Purple held by eyelids in the way of quiet lotus buds. In a day it’s forgotten. In a decade she looks for female priests. Nanak exits. In a further decade, New York. The therapist gliding fingers to make a thatch. Enmeshment. A mother holding lap of sari to shade her sleeping child. He prescribes American, breakage. Suggests a lifetime of misplaced idolism. Ma Dhee. She considers chalk faced girls in kundalini swirls. Wonders if they understand that spine serpents are winged. Masana, Nagini. How oneness with God involves a womb. She returns to a new polytheism. Kisses her Japji, collects rosaries, hangs her mother’s phulkaris, makes an altar to Saraswati, finds two orchards in Climax – first at her own hands, second in their arrivals.
• Karva Chauth. Yes, the Sieve. Oval from fasting. Now sift moonlight unto herself, herself, herself.
*A colloquial term for the Xanthorrhoea plant, native to Australia.