I help my father build a memory palace
where I hope to be an integral part
of its design—the pillar that keeps the structure
from collapse. We talk of places he can still
call up in his mind. The house in Hyderabad
where he was born. A train station in Agra
where he left his youth behind.
I follow him into a Bombay movie theater:
whirring fans chill the cinema’s air.
A black-and-white film pulls him in,
offers succor from the orange
heat of June. Outside, a salesman sells
overripe mangoes from a bicycle cart.
Shoeless children ask tourists for money.
A monkey clambers across a powerline.
I have never been to India, my father’s
motherland. It is tricky to make myself
a vital figure there, a place I’ve never been,
a time before I exist. I insist
I can be airbrushed in.
Make me a child beside the monkey
tightrope-walking on the powerline—
that monkey you still remember.
A CORD TO BIND US
Was it not then, as I saw the future embodied
in the body of my child, I sought a story
to tether us together—my daughter, myself—
a story, too, to tie the mother-me
to the one I was before I birthed her.
The cord had been severed.
Then I heard a woman ask,
Is that white baby yours?
as if all I was was not
white, as if all my daughter was was white,
as if I were a brown
wet nurse feeding the baby
the only white drops of me—
Carolina Hotchandani is a Latinx/South Asian poet born in Brazil and raised in various parts of the United States. Her debut poetry collection The Book Eaters won the 2023 Perugia Press Prize and will be released in September 2023. Hotchandani holds degrees from Brown, Texas State, and Northwestern universities. Her honors include scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Rona Jaffe Foundation, Community of Writers, Tin House Writers' Workshop, and Napa Valley Writers' Conference. Her poetry has appeared in AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Blackbird, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review (poem of the week), Prairie Schooner, and other journals. She is a Goodrich Assistant Professor of English in Omaha, Nebraska, where she lives with her husband and daughter.