- Poetry, KY
There is no poetry in being lonely in Kentucky. There are pretty houses sprinkled on hills. When you go for a drive, they revolve gently around you. You live in a big apartment with your husband. You have a balcony. From the balcony you can see woods with trees whose leaves have turned red and grass that is still an undulating green. It’s picture-perfect pretty, like an “Incredible India” poster selling the Himalayas. If you close your eyes, you can smell pine resin.
On cold mornings, there is frost on the ground, and the scene looks like the Christmas cards your family used to send out years ago, with your father’s name stamped inside with his official seal. Everyone is nice to you in Kentucky. The airport personnel at the security check even look apologetic for making you take off your boots.
In Bombay, 26 years old, you had your first warm autumn. Those seaside dusks were incandescent. The sea breeze nibbled at your upper arms and the sky was claret, wine, deep purple, the color of Himalayan plums, overripe and bursting.
On your way back from the office at 9:00 p.m., you tried to read in the darkness of your taxi, jerking forward in the traffic. You hopped left and right on the backseat, trying to catch bars of light from the next street lamp, the next shop selling plastic buckets and bamboo brooms, the next sugarcane juice stall. Sometimes you asked the drivers to switch on the tiny neon blue light inside, which took the taxi somewhere between seedy and sexy, as if the taxi smelled not of old sweat but of fake Jovan White Musk. [End Page 133]
Sometimes you bookmarked the page you were at with your index finger, looked at people on the sidewalk rushing by, and took a deep, satisfying breath. The walkers were redolent of jasmine hair oil, of paan and Charlie eau de toilette, mostly of cheap but strong deodorant sprays.
Kentucky, of course, has no smells. At interstate exits, signboards announce that there is a $500 fine for littering. On your way to Kroger, you photograph one of these with your new smartphone and e-mail the photo to your father. He is impressed.
You return from Kroger armed with shiny peppers, juicy strawberries, and crisp cabbage. You always keep basil in your Kentucky refrigerator, and feta cheese. Sometimes you even have fresh rosemary and sage. There is no toast sprinkled with red chili powder and salt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, like you ate in London. There are no stories of losing six kilos in a month because you were depressed. How angsty.
In Kentucky, you devise impromptu lunches of toasted multigrain bread slathered with homemade salsa, covered with a bed of baby arugula, dotted with brie. Mint chutney spread on buttered toast, and a dessert of Nutella finger-scooped from the jar. You stuff jalapeños with grated coconut and simmer them in a tamarind sauce. You braise eggplant with soy sauce and fennel seeds. You grow nicely fat, spread out on the Ikea Poäng chair, eating blueberries and biscuits and butter-fried eggs sprinkled with pimiento. It’s most satisfying, this business of eating well. Where is the poetry in that?
Kentucky is fuzzy and warm with central heating. There is no nonsense here about shivering in the cold while walking against the cruel English wind under inadequate clothing. You have a thick, white jacket filled with down. It keeps you toasty even in subzero temperatures. You hang the jacket in a walk-in closet that holds 30 pairs of shoes and piles and piles of sweaters.
In London, for a week you slept only on the left edge of the twin bed because the rest of it was covered with your roommate’s abandoned clothes. She left London permanently for India with her clothes in your care. On the seventh day you stuffed 11 plastic bags and made five trips to the neighboring Oxfam and gave all those clothes away. [End Page 134]
On your way back, Bangladeshi men stalked you outside the red phone...