by Inam Kang
there’s maybe some arrogance to thoughtful romance. there has
to be a little bit of that, right? there has to be a little bit of
mud-pucker in the canines for that to thrive. if you met
my parents, though, i think you might understand what it looks
like without all the tension and soot crowding the bones you
take all your calculated time to clean. today, i talked to their faces
in a shining window and for so long, we just sat and looked.
of course, there were the basic rituals of hello. assalamualaikum,
are you ok, that sort of normal shit, but all we did was smile after
the inventory. when my dad felt the workday on his head, he did
relent a little with a yawn. there’s arrogance here after all, so you know
it had to be stiff, being man and everything that entails. we worked
so much in this country, all of us. relenting and relenting, folding
in half so we could cook and grab some coins and maybe now
some flowers since the coins come a little faster. but yes, my
dad’s head did eventually tip on to my mother’s shoulder and
all her shoulder did was bloom for him. so i’m guessing it knows
his full name and even the one his mother used to call him before
her shoulders did the dance of the big relent. and his head knows
the villages etched into my mother’s arms, too. make no mistake here.
the head still holds a stubborn brain, pins down faulty ears, and the man is
violent like they’re all made and know to be. but her shoulder
pins up a stronger arm than most, one that feeds and takes each day,
as is ritual and home. the relent isn’t as easy in that one. when
my mother feels the first itch of him on her shoulder, she doesn’t
move even a dust-chuckle of dry soil. the door was open.
my father’s head knows my mother’s shoulder, the way it moves
when it reaches for jasmine in her father’s garden, alchemy of
invitation tender. he takes the best seat in her room. this is
comfortable love in a small house, letting the arrogance relent into
a silent whisper like monsoons ushering themselves out of their country
and letting my brothers and i grow juicy and robust in a new season.
best of all, though, is when my mother
teases my father for his big head and all its heft and both of
their chests bounce like a wind-kick catching leaves and spitting
them into bhangra. my dad’s head all red now, aging and never ready
for the quick tongue, built of nothing but hot untranslatable oil.
these two, thieves of all the air in the room, anchors in the right sea.
my mother looks to him and all she does is shake her head, oh mercy
oh mercy, what a silly man she found herself settled here with, what
a blessing she finds herself dragging along. the shoulder grants the arm
a quick trip to wipe a good tear from my mother’s eye. and the head
lets all the air back into my father’s old lungs. and when all that sacred
choreography ends, his head floats back into her shoulder. this is
the eternal bond of my favorite flesh and bone, monument of all the love
i know. my skin comes from this so it’s the language of my breathing.
this i know well in my head, my shoulder, all the places memory stays.
Inam Kang is a Pakistani-born Muslim poet, student, curator and researcher currently living in Cleveland, OH as an MS candidate in Medical Physiology at Case Western Reserve University. He is also a former Ann Arbor Poetry & Slam finalist. Currently, he is a co-curator for the POC-centered reading and dialogue series FRUIT in Ann Arbor, MI. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Freezeray Poetry and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others.