First Place – 2023 Beverly Hopkins Contest for High School Students

“The sensual imagery of this poem was so appealing. I love how something sensual unfolds in practically every line. This poem is a beautiful assertion of identity, even as the speaker reveals at poem’s end how uncertain she is in that identity.”

Allison Joseph, 2023 Hopkins Contest Judge

the motherland –

Parkway South High School

there is fresh mehndi on my palms
and so my mother balances my cup of chai and hers with one hand
my scarf clings to the lawn swing
while maroon bangles dangle from my wrists
and my jhumka earrings weigh my ears down

the houses around here are crumbling
a plaster blend of chalk red and hickory brown hold most of them up
and yet the people do not care
so, i do not either

there is the noise of a busy city in the middle of a normal tuesday night
and the sounds of car horns are the hums of the people
my feet rest on the damp grass
while the smell of intense spices wakes me up
and i smile at the laughing of pretty boys playing cricket in the field

        there is a joke in the west; have you ever heard of the abcd’s?

the call for prayer draws my attention away
a feeling erupts of belonging
and i wish to never leave
so, i bury my face and mourn the feeling of familiarity

        yes – american born confused desi.