Valentines: Two poems by Joanna George

Birthday

Two weeks back I was planning for your birthday
A bottle of whiskey or old monk, fruit custard with milkmaid or 
a sandwich with grapes in between, few boiled eggs and pulses too; 
knowing your likeness for food sweetened and me.
But see, the lockdown keeps extending like a tensionless string,
and I feel, you and I would spend your birthday night 
on each other’s screens framed and locked under like these new restrictions
within our state borders, you on your rooftop with a glass of milk
and me inside my room, trying to curb the wind ruffling your hair there.
Us trapped on screens, happy to be together in this times of separation.
I would read you a letter I will write for you, and I know you would complain 
about the buffering network, but we will try and understand 
the half chucked words we post through this ether of zeroes and ones,
while patiently waiting with the world to recover, as I whisper, “Janmadin Mubarak”.
(Happy Birthday)
And then, when it’s all over, I will fly back to your arms to begin again, a fresh story 
of belonging to your heartbeat celebrating the serendipity of your birth. 

Tongues


I’m learning your mother tongue, the articulation and slips of Hindi through my nasal sing song Malayalam. Let’s weave this fence of language on our tongues as they come together searching for a common home licking off the burns and bruise sparked by our bordered families. Let’s speak in our hushed voices of passion stressing the ends, giving it lifts and hurls, let’s speak with our tongues rolling and excavating the unsaid pain out, spanning the geography to tunnel this distances of social boundaries. And I wonder if you taste the years-long coconut shreds of my kitchen as I learn my first word, “meri jaan”, my life, my dear it is; while I roll the imperfect rotis meant to be round tasting the palate of your pink mouth’s cave, do you feel my sukhi sukhi - dry, dry brown rice ? I can’t help keep thinking as our homes finds reason to smother  this love –won’t tongues find its way to bite and breath life meri jaan?

About Joanna George

Close up author photo of Joanna George looking to her right and smiling.

Joanna George (she/her) currently writes from Pondicherry. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, West Trestle Review, Lumiere Review, Literary Shanghai, Mookychick and others.