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You Bring Out the Punjabi In Me

March 8, 2012 4 comments

by Preeti Kaur

with respect to Sandra Cisneros’ “You Bring Out the Mexican In Me

you bring out the punjabi in me
the bloody border
the mustard field bitter
the green revolution GMO seed
the grand trunk diaspora
i proclaim myself the sixth river
for you

you resuscitate the drowned punjabi
lover from exiled rivers in me
flood of forgotten
ranjha, i am your heer
i am the pardesi
letter written in ugly english
i am the past written    the next unwritten
ranjha, i am your digital heer
late night emails & chats spilled onto screen
every word my own    i have stolen nothing    i have stolen everything
you, ranjha, i am stealing you

yes, you drag out the punjabi in me
language balanced atop head
an attache of oora/aira/eeri
my tongue ready
to conquer retroflex for you
i would forsake the greatest battles of all time
aloo gobi vs. gobi aloo    chawl vs. chaval
for you

yes, raja ji for you
i would steal back
the kohi noor off england’s crown
set up my own auction at sotheby’s
sell off every asset
including the maharaja’s lost coins, swords, even his liver
to the highest bidder in a white hat
all to fund my dowry for you
you

you habibi
you pirate the komagatu maru out of me
hold my ship on your shores
dare/ send back my immigrant cargo heart
i will resist (with bullet!)
dare/ send back my immigrant cargo heart
i will obey (with breast!)

mithu
you mix up the mexidu forbidden out of me
i crave your territory alien land law
imperial over my valley
break into yuba city root peach trees
a thousand san joaquin spawn
our only proof of that angel
island tryst
grown into millionaire agro turbans on tractors
a seed we let loose all over the globe

rrrrrRrrrrRrrrrrrRrrrrr
yes yes yes

sonu
you burn the inquilabi in me
ghadar is a language
i speak only to you
pacific mist we breathe
the subcontinent to freedom
from our san francisco dreams
hidden under guise of fog
tag taxis with saffron orange bumper stickers
ZINDABAAD!!! ZINDABAAD!!!
perhaps the morning pooni the start of our rebellion
radioactive jalebis the danger
we eat

yes, you spin the sufi out of me
meandering wanderer wonder in me
my clothes black
headphones blasting nusrat
freakin’ ali khan all night
i am drowning in your drink rabbi
while the destination remains far
a long road i do not travel because of you
instead i write cheap poetry
sleep away this life for you

this life for you

you bring out the sikh in me
the hindu in me the muslim in me
heck even the christian convert in me (and the communist atheist, i will never forget)
in you, i see no stranger
i will write your name
into every holy text
my prayer the night moan
i am floating in sohni’s mud pot
riding trade winds to mehiwal
bargaining gold coins for holy love
oh my waheguru, eating my own fat thigh for food
as i tread across five rivers and one thousand oceans
surfing solar winds
across the seven universes
for you
all for you

shiv kumar, THIS is the condition of the fakeer

haan ji, ji
ji haan, ji
anything you say, ji

for you i’d pay off every grain to my name
for a kabootar visa
illegal stow away through the ionian sea to valait
escape the suffocation of southall
to hustle burberry purse replicas
beneath the eiffel tower
declare an undying love for the price of a euro
jump an archipelago of countries
gambia roos mexico kanayda umreeka
like my messy kiss
skip cheek to chin to lip to tongue
this journey, for you

yes you bring out the punjabi in me
i’d start a bhangra competition
in every city i heard your name
soho road where ever you walk
electric tumbi your heartbeat
i’d take hold of the stage
re enact some village i’ve never seen
screw lightbulbs into air    water the fields    twirl my flippin’ praandi
box myself into every poonjab corner i could
bind myself into this prison on my own will

for you
you

these ribs a jail of dried rivers
for you
break these bones
you will find both my heart my liver
and i will sing freedom


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Preeti Kaur is a poet from California. She trained with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She has had poetry featured in The Loft’s spoken word CD ¿Nation of Immigrants?, in the South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection and the Calcutta-based Sikh Review.

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