Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Uma Menon





my grandmother’s jewelry

she lays a platter of chains        in front of me
the kind that detach       that connect       that
won’t break               when my hands become
they just lie there             as pointed words do
when it is too cold    to multiply
my grandmother’s eyes lie                upon me
fixed to the gold                   asking me to pick
a color      pick a shape     pick a luster to bury
my ash body
                this is what my skin would look like
                             if it shone
but my eyes disarm          stop to pass through
the plastic crystals
            how is it that india is home to so many
                            & i am still the color
                            of shineless gold



the first time my mother sends me         to buy groceries
i come back weeping                it’s just the rain     i say

but really         it is the vegetables          that i have pared
& eaten with my right hand    the hand that speaks only

malayalam that i cannot translate            these vegetables
i have already named once               cannot rename them

because food is Saraswati Devi              & i must learn to
buy vegetables        without knowing their english names

that day   my mother feeds me lunch        bitter melon cut
& feathered with spices         snake gourd sliced & curled

at the edges                   she places each piece at the center
of my tongue        & readily my mouth curls into a wound


a lesson on colonization & genocide

there is a misconception    that blood
does not leak  through these surfaces

that these colors absorb   the burning
red of blood       & leave you   a river

of obedience   this      is not a science
science says             that blood  leaks

through  brown   cloth the same way
that blood leaks  through white cloth

& still this          is not    a geography
this       is a recipe for alienation  that

does not even require a second planet
instead you make aliens out of people

on your own world   but   you cannot
change the viscosity of blood       you

can only make us bleed     you cannot
make our blood    this     is an identity

what if i realized that my blood tastes
the same as your blood        & what if

i made    my own recipe        from this
would you hide      your leaking blood

                             like you made us do


Photograph provided courtesy of author.

Uma Menon is a fifteen-year-old student and writer from Winter Park, FL. Her writing has appeared in Ms. Magazine, IRIS, and Borgen Magazine, among others. Her first chapbook was published with Zoetic Press in January 2019. Uma is also a nationally ranked debater and an activist for marginalized groups. More from this author →