Sunday 5 November 2017

2 Poems by Prerna Bakshi

(First appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review)

With no lullabies to sing,
no stories to tell,
no songs remembered,
I rock the cradle gently,
hoping it will stop you from crying,
but you continue to cry.

I lift you up,
bring you back down again,
kiss you on your cheek and then back up again.
I do this several times,
hoping it will stop you from crying,
but you continue to cry.

I try to feed you.
Pat your tummy.
Talk to you.
Play with you.
But none of this works,
as you continue to cry,
you continue to cry, cry, cry, cry, cry,
until Amma speaks to you
in your tongue – the mother tongue.

Refugees and names
(First appeared in Up the Staircase Quarterly)

When you’re a child of a refugee,
one of the first lessons you learn in school
is that your name – no longer
belongs to you.

That it will be hounded, shamed and replaced
with a brand new name, given
by members of the host country
with their rubber-stamp on it.

That it will be stripped of
all of its meaning, all of its history.
That it will be molded until
all the a’s turn into u’s;

until all the tones
become flat;
until the host country’s language
becomes the first and only language of the child.

His first day at school
in his new found host country,
my father gets scolded
by the Hindi teacher,

my grandparents get blamed
for not naming him correctly,
get mocked for not knowing
Hindi well enough.

No such thing as Taran, the teacher remarked,
the correct word is Tarun – meaning young. Now repeat after me.
He was to remain Tarun,
from this point on.

In Punjabi, my father’s native tongue,
Taran means savior, that’s what my grandparents thought he was,
when they made it to the other side of the border
alive, during the Partition.

My grandma was then
pregnant with my father.
My father survived
but his name didn’t.


Prerna Bakshi is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of Burnt Rotis, With Love, which was long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce - Press Poetry Award in the UK and cited as one of the ‘9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World’ by Bustle Magazine in the US. Her work has been published widely, most recently in Chiron Review, Red Wedge Magazine, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and Prachya Review: Literature & Art Without Borders. More here:

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