I practiced my Urdu in the bathroom with you / as I sat in the tub; only so long before an American / mermaid can stand without floating on into sea foam.
How to Make an Ariel
Nani, I’ve now taken your shoes. Our feet
the same size & nothing else. Old & naked
foot, where I touched the electric estuary—
tender tubule lines rambling up & into
your tarpan heart, beating warm with the
rave of being a winning racehorse. Legs
that are better than I’ve ever known. I know
I’m an unfaithful alphabet. My wrung
English papers are in the laundry room, slack
warm sails that smell of the sea. Or, the wet,
humidity of holding my palms. I am the hoof
of us, recording every pain of every stone as it
trots on the nail, or the way we canter on it.
How muted my tantrum when you pointed
to me the wet gravestone of my other grandmother:
the unknowable hypsometry of raised & curved
letters that I ran my blind hands over & over.
What does it say? A rolling wave of unknowing.
Do you love me, master? All I know is English
I went back to my Mother’s childhood home
& banded light, the generator buzz deafening,
I practiced my Urdu in the bathroom with you
as I sat in the tub; only so long before an American
mermaid can stand without floating on into sea foam.
Where are we from sea level? How close to
the lost psalm written by our shared walks
& the rhythm made by my feet clopping in
your bathroom slippers? Nani, making triangles,
with your bare fingers you have fed me pistachio
rice pudding, the lush Farsi of Mughal courts,
had me swallow my Mother’s maiden name —
& in the wilds of myself I consider you everywhere
in the lines of Navajo sandstone, my breasts shaped
like the Arabic alphabet “noon,” “considerare,” sharing
a root with the word “sidus,” or star. How you
have held me in the gaze of the most patient eye,
painting shadow at the pace of a lunar mare.