at age seven we press our palms together and pray in this house, see, how bibi does? we cook bright red tandoori chicken for dinner, eat with our brown hands. scratch the corduroy couch as night falls until our fingers feel like they vibrate. this house is not my home, but i know how to lock the door in the dark, leave the key in the mailbox, and never wave goodbye. at age fourteen to hide the shakes i grip the fuming cigarillo hard enough to crush its damp, delicate paper, smearing grape taste on my skin. stomach acid dries my tongue, my chest burns. her cuticles bleed even in the cold weather, skin lifted up like it’s afraid and defensive. she brushes her brown hand against my brown hand as i pass auntie’s stolen smoke back to her. i wipe the wetness off on my coat, tell her i’m good for now. at age twenty-one i stir tea like my father, bite my brown knuckles like him too. my joints are swollen already, they don’t know how to rest, don’t know how to braid hair, don’t know if arthritis is in the genes that made these bones and flesh. on my own, i still struggle to open jars, the hard strain felt in my neck. i don’t get the grip, slipping fingers searching for purchase, grappling with my inability to keep hold and hold tight.
Roshni Riar is an emerging writer and Creative Writing BFA student at UBC Vancouver. Working primarily in poetry, she explores the relationships between culture, language, trauma, and identity as a Panjabi woman. Her poetry has appeared in Room Magazine and CV2. Twitter: @arekayare.