Bujji Kanna

[noun] – my dearest, my love

Grandmother’s skin folds along her face in
slippery, mudslide pockets, droops down
like desolation, a decrepit promise forgotten
in old age. She is a decapitated evergreen,
each wrinkle of her face telling me a story
she doesn’t quite know how to mold into words.
So I try to listen, quietly, the way the wind
holds its breath as crisp leaves croak under
the soles of stumbling shoes.

The story she tells is of me, a guilt trip that
leaves the hairs on my arm electrocuted on end.
She tells me of her granddaughter, her bujji kanna,
her giggling child, how she misses her,
reaches out an arm spiny and bent like a
willow branch, curls it over my cheek and asks
me if I remember her.

I want to stretch out my hand,
curl it over hers in solace, the unspoken magic
in the touch of skin, in the ancestry awake in
my veins. But somewhere along these
fifteen years, we’ve drifted apart.
Perhaps it was the ocean between us,
chortling and whispering, daring me to cross.

I was too afraid, a coward to culture, to my
country, to my grandmother who raised me
from cottony earth under coconut oil sun,
left her homeland each summer to succor me
in her arms, to remind me what home really was.

I only wish I hadn’t abandoned her for this
foreign soil of ebony skin on ebony bone,
of glistening promises waving on a flagpole
carved by immigrant hands,
anchored on immigrant dreams.

If only I remembered India when America opened
its gates. If only I remembered Grandmother
before she was already dying, her memory
slipping through the sieve of my fingers,
her voice rumbling through Proddatur streets,
across a telephone line and thirteen thousand
kilometers of broken promises swirling in
silent disquietude at the bottom of the village well.

I wish I called her back. I wish I was still her
bujji kanna, her sweet daughter, her giggling child.
Now I’m a basketful full of sweat gone wasted,
of desecrated mango rinds and disheartened
mosquitoes. I’m a girl turned foreigner in every
land I once called home
But still—
Grandmother forgives me.

Aanika Eragam is a sophomore from Milton High School in Georgia. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Georgia Council of the Arts, and more. She currently serves as a Genre Editor at Polyphony Lit.

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