The Sonneteer by Sreshtha Sen
Here, the critics love her; they call her sonnets
“Exotic lines on exotic lives”
The women who fall in love with her words leave
their phone numbers inked on her palm.
“Write about me” They lick out apologies
till there is nothing to do but give in to the salt of their grievances.
Once there was a girl who ceased to be.
Poetry helps to write her out of existence.
Pensacola was the boy across the street,
whose cheek tasted like caramel even though it was bone white.
Like a scratch card, the prize underneath was conditional.
“It is so hot when you speak in Hindi.” He said.
So seduction came in the form of mere sentences:
Amaar gola boshe gaache.
(I’m speaking Bengali, can you tell the difference?)
Lucknow mein Hindi nahi, Urdu boli jaati hain.
(There are more languages in me than you’ll ever know.)
Murgh Makhani khatam ho gaya.
(There is no more chicken in the fridge.)
In Paris, she ran around screaming “Taxi! Taxi!” thinking
“How wonderful it is to be French no, to be France.”
To be able to kiss her cigarettes, and roll her Rs,
to write about love, finding the words to frame a story that says—
I fell too hard for this person who shares my bed on Mondays and Fridays
(unless it’s a bank holiday).
To not be every supporting actor unknown, but a known lover of linguistics.
She discovered the Chai Tea Latte of New York.
Using the recipe her mother taught her,
she went where Starbucks never would—across the ocean.
Dried leaves scrutinised under a strainer, something sentimental,
two spoons of sugar, a sprig of mint if one was adventurous enough.
The milk would sink in slowly, white rinsing the black, making it easier to conceal.
Just as bitter nevertheless.
She called it “CHAI AND TEA MEAN THE SAME THING IN DIFFERENT
CONTINENTS, EXCEPT NOT REALLY”
(Her editor said “The title is too long. Change it.”)
Sometimes, she writes about love, and death.
Or football. She writes about football calls it Self-Portrait
even though it takes years to write about The Self.
After verse, the piercings of yesteryear settle on her tongue.
Like chai on a blood blister, it feels broken, bursting, burnt.
“Write about me” the Past whispers.
How does it feel to have history stuck to your throat?
Like a million little secrets clamouring to be sung.
Sreshtha Sen is a writer from New Delhi, India, and one of the founding editors of The Shoreline Review, a journal of South Asian poetry. She studied Literatures in English from Delhi University and is currently completing her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.