Home Is a Myth

Literature Default
a poem by Uma Biswas-Whittaker

Babu listens

to her ma—“I

shall give you a few lessons

in the histories of your grandmother.

The secrets of her home, hidden

in mango stones and the crocodile’s river.”


She heard this myth last week. It's

alive somehow—“They are kept

safe in that gold elephant figurine.

In gayana and wedding presents,

all the memories she could fit in a suitcase.”


Babu wonders, would Dida

shake her head? Talk over Ma,

correct her বাংলা, quick click of the tongue.

Tell it, retell it, over and over—

it is over. Etch it on your granddaughter’s skin.


Ma washes the verses clean.

Can her daughter understand?

Has she lost—“My mother’s stories, her laugh,

honest prayers, wishes fulfilled.

Set aside all those old men. You are not their kin.”


Babu stares up at the sun,

makes her eyes sting, relaxes

in the summer glow—“Pay attention now.

Do not swallow your tongue. English

is an infectious thing. I smell it on your clothes.”


Babu grows up too quickly,

loses all her mother’s words.

Tells stories

in the wrong language. “I heard that

the secrets of my home are lost

in mangroves

or the crocodile’s river.”


- Uma Biswas-Whittaker


Cover Photo Source: https://www.amandasaintclaire.com/blog/139464/how-can-art-transcend-written-language