I have graduated in happiness
by rehearsing for happiness.
At six, I learned to fool my pet parrots
by taking an empty fist to the food bowl.
Laughed as they screeched Thank You Thank You
when I pretended to drop a morsel.
Their gratitude, less human, more habitual tickled me.
As it should’ve tickled the gods who saw me
hard sell the same fantasy to myself over & over
to fall asleep: Last milk-tooth still intact, each night
I conjured up a husband in the wall I faced. Blushed,
lowered my gaze. Here’s your chai, I’d practice saying
in ma’s voice, I packed an umbrella for you.
Ever so often, something in the house smelled like fire.
Ma opened windows, papa sniffed every knob for leaks.
I kept on praying for forehead kisses
& keepers. Between multiplication revisions, I asked ma
if it was okay if moms and pops didn’t speak
to each other for days. She continued hiding
naphthalene balls in all corners of his cupboard.
The pea-sized remedy that dispelled daily moths —
Such a wonder to watch it disappear
(like the opposite-joy of seeing a plant grow)
how could anything go straight from solid to air
without the slippery sorrow of ever being liquid.
The summer Aladdin released, we bought a twin-
cassette player with an in-built home-Karaoke system.
And for a few Sundays after, as the living room overdosed
on silence, with mum cutting up a watermelon, dad trying
to better his own time at Sudoku, I kept singing into the electric
mic, A Whole New World. Extending the cord, far as I could
for them to join in and become my background voices.
Preeti Vangani is a poet & personal essayist. Her work has appeared in BOAAT, Juked, Gulf Coast, and Threepenny Review among other journals. She is the Assistant Poetry Editor for Glass Journal.