These Are My Hands – Roshni Riar

        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.

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