They caught us once between the Cypress trees, a block from our apartment complex, where
the hallways always smelled of beer and boiled rice, though I don’t remember exactly, just two boys on bikes, the flash
of sunlight on steel handlebars, words sharp, and the bite of mosquitos that burned our ankles. Something hard
hit my brother in the head. A red bindi in the center of his forehead like a rose blooming, like the ones I saw my mother wear, but
his bled down his face. A dot head, a sand nigger—one of them who never freckled during recess, skin dark as almonds,
smelled of curry and spices, ate their sandwiches rolled up in brown bread. Except they got it wrong. No matter how many times they rode by,
chasing us with words, with rocks and broken bottles spitting at our backs, they got it wrong. It was a sign of being blessed
after temple, of celebration when women wore them, red-gold to match silver-threaded saris to match red and green glass bangles that shivered
up their forearms, my brother’s jagged, glittering more than a pundit’s thumbprint, more than a holy mark, glittering.
Vandana Khanna, who lives in Los Angeles, was born in New Delhi, India, but has lived most of her life in the United States. She received the MFA in poetry at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she was the 1994 Fellowship Recipient. Her poems have appeared in Hawaii Review, Cream City Review, and Crazyhorse.