March 28, 2019

Tributes to Heritage: Preeti Shah’s Poetry

Tributes to Heritage: Preeti Shah’s Poetry

Mother Hindustan

In the years that you have been inked into a map,
laid down, unraveled, all corners of you outstretched, 
with man who has always crossed at your borders,
you have sung the songs and poems of martyrs.
But will another song ever be sung?

Your tongue was made of the lakes from the
Kashmir Valley. You still hold it still.
Even as your children suckle from you,
bite down, swallow blood, when they 
fear the milk will stop flowing.  You still
hold your tongue still.
All of your children were born under the 
mountains of your body and the stars
from your eyes.  All of your children
fell asleep to the coolness of your 
breath. But forgot its
sweet lullaby.  But, none ever forget
the sounds of burning flesh.  
They know when they are painted 
onto your map,
scattered like a field of saffron,
planted, only to be picked,
that their blood is spread across
your nations, a deep red.
Mother sing us another song
of a man who bows to the God he finds
in you, a woman or land that he no longer
wants to destroy.
Mother sing us another song
where the chambers of your heart 
are no longer a grave overfilling.
A song of freedom for a borderless land.

The Green Line

The train comes to our neighborhood,
blowing the pungent steam. 
“Blow!” They shout. So it blows.
They still use paper and bodies to
build the tracks.  The scarf
around my neck filters the clouds
that move into me. Through me. Out 
the back of my head.  
They make the white
of my eyes red. I cough. 
I missed the train.
Again.  Cough.
And watch the riders pass by.
Green with hunger.

When We Listen

The white air puffs;
       a ghostly conductor,
orchestrates quiet words 
       and warmth between 
our exasperated lips.
We tear in chorus
        on cold days like today.
Our own skin awakens,
         stands, in ovation.
The ice of our bones
    melts at the sight 
of a holiday scene.

Our cacophony becomes music
      when we respond to the 
jingling call for coins
      from a crinkled paper cup.
What is it then between us
     but a silent night,
where we all fall as snow,
      but still listen to the 
quiet symphony we make
       in unison.

Seeking Roots

A river poured out to the ocean-
the transfer of trust between
birth parents and my adopted ones.
But its mouth has since been closed.
I am neither river   nor ocean
I am the boat that sails back in knots
which uses oars to pierce at the lips of a dam
to carve two bodies of water back into one;
where I was made by nature and nurture.
Set to discover where wood was hammered 
and sanded to create bow and stern 
where cloth was dyed and hung 
to sail into the clouds   into a future.
I am that boat that wades unevenly 
and trembles with the water’s acoustic range
of vibratos and timbres. My hull echoes eerily- 
I am not them.  A distortion of creaks.  I sing--  
rusted larynx   sinking voice.  I am not them.
I am a boat sailing to sail
sometimes deep in postulations
sometimes stuck in mud   still as death.  
Always fearful to capsize, even when navigating 
with compass and convoy, even while being
raised in smooth waters.
But now I am gaining momentum-
the dam is breaking   splintering my oars.  
The ocean and the river are not two    
They rekindle to kiss as one again.  
And now I want more.  I want to go back.  
Back when an ocean drank a river   
when my birth parents were not words on paper.  
Back before they made me    
when an axe hit a tree. 
I want to go back.   Before Mom    
before Dad        before them.
I want to go back.
when a boat never existed.  


Preeti Shah has been writing poetry from a very young age.  Her poetry focuses on her unique life experiences of being raised as an Indian American in a small Pennsylvania suburb, while weaving with her deep love for nature.  She has a poetry blog on Google +, where she has shared collections of her own personal journey.  Her poetry has been featured in the American Aesthetic and Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. Her greatest inspiration for her work has been the love of her family.  When she is not writing, Preeti works in the physical therapy field with the geriatric population, who has given her a lifetime worth of wisdom.  She resides in Queens, NY.

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