Kirun Kapur grew up in Hawaii and has since lived and worked in North America and South Asia. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, Crab Orchard Review, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, Manushi and other journals and news outlets. She has been a poetry fellow at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center and McDowell Colony. In 2012, she was awarded The Rumi Prize for Poetry from Arts &Letters. Currently, she lives in Newburyport, MA, where she is the creative director of The Tannery Series.
My Father’s Hopscotch, 1942
In August of 1942, the All India Congress Committee adopts the “Quit India Resolution,” calling for complete independence from Britain. The British government responds by incarcerating all the committee leaders, including Mohandas K. Gandhi. Strikes and protests sweep the country as over 100,000 are arrested.
Five rooftops—wide and flat— lie shining
between his father’s and his uncle’s house.
Five rivers in Punjab. His path spools out,
a conqueror, marching through the Khyber Pass.
First jump: Auntie Shara’s wicked chilies
smirking in the sun. Second: Rana Bhai’s old goat,
who gives no milk and bites a younger brother’s ass.
On Naana’s roof, a locked-up room, a sharp-nosed girl
whose only word is snakes. At his command:
a village burns, troops swim the Jhelum in the night.
Midway, my father stops, salaams
the black-draped Begums who come up to take the air.
They praise him as their naughty one, feed him
chunks of jaggery, never exposing their hands.
Who are you today, little son? Alexander? Shah Jahan?
Don’t tell us you’re an Englishman!
No way for him to guess the rumors in the street.
Some rumbling, a mutiny: the East is lost,
turn back, return to Greece. Roof to roof,
he leaps, he presses on across the map.
Under the Bed
I didn’t need monsters, I had
history. Didn’t want history,
I wanted crime—though I had
a girl’s body and the wind
in the palms outside cried steadily,
sounding like rain. I didn’t
need heaven or sin or punishment.
I had a mother. I had a father.
A fine gold sand blew across my face
and the shoreline I stood on changed.
The god who ruled our house
ruled patiently. The god of my heart
devoured me. I didn’t need a heart,
I had a family. A sea pumped that vast
salty love through its chambers.
When I looked under the bed,
I discovered emptiness. Discovering
my emptiness, I sang.