Anuradha Bhowmik

Spotlight: Seasonal / Lunchtime in Atlantic City / Postscript

SEASONAL

Hindu Santa stashes
boxes of Just for Men
under the bathroom

sink, bare scalp painted
black with faded tooth
brush bristles. Barbasol

thick on a fluff tip, aloe
slathered smooth on salty
cinnamon scruff, snow

scraped with disposable
Gillette green, tapped clean
in the cracked pink sink:

glean under the warm
jet of a speckled faucet.
Hands soapy from a dollar

bar of Yardley, hardly
saw the Barbie bubble bath
in the back cabinet corner.


LUNCHTIME IN ATLANTIC CITY

Lined up outside
the cafeteria,
fingers to lips,
clutched lunch tickets:
white paper money

with typewritten names
perforated edges
and hole-punched corners.
School lunch menu
taped to the fridge,

highlighted Fridays
for Ellio’s and Domino’s:
Ma finally filled out
free lunch forms. Quit
work after Dada

said I’d toss bits
of her half-eaten
food in the trash bin
after I waved to Tony
the tattooed custodian.

But I can eat cool
school lunch now:
tried a hot dog for
the first time,
ate beef by mistake,

confessed and cried to Ma.
I worried I’d die.
Don’t do it again,
Mamoni! Shards of her
Bengali bangles

ricocheted off
my forehead. Today
I’ll eat chicken nugget
lunch with my best friends:
we wrote Spice Girl names

on the backs of our tickets,
wore matching white
shirts and navy
skorts, rolled down
our scalloped socks.

Girl Power peace signs
paired with white
pantyhose and Payless
flats as we chant
boys go to Jupiter

to get more stupider!
Girls go to college
to get more knowledge!
We laugh, lock arms,
walk in, let go—

hungry hands grab
shrink-wrapped plastic
utensils, cardboard
chocolate milk cartons
and aluminum-lipped

juice boxes, shoved in
Styrofoam lunch tray
quadrants beside jello
blocks, tater tots
and packets of sauce.

I hand my torn-
cornered ticket
to the kind-eyed
cashier, look back
at the long line

of school-uniformed
lunch-ticketed
Latino, Black
and Asian kids
disappearing

behind the nurse’s
office: we will
never look like
the Spice Girls.
Cramped between

white benches
bolted into black
linoleum, mixing
condiments on
corners of trays:

mayonnaise
with mustard,
barbecue, ketchup:
colored away
in grade school days.


POSTSCRIPT

Memory would reveal
the soft fibers
of the white crochet blanket
on top of the green couch
in your basement, where we’d drink
Layer Cake red wine
out of cracked, clear plastic cups.
I’d wear your sweater
that we picked out at Goodwill
with green and brown squares
all over it; you’d pull my bracelets
up my wrists to see the tan lines
beneath them, and trace
the outline of my lips
as they parted ever so slightly;
and when we’d sit crossed-legged
on the beige carpet,
our noses and foreheads
pressed against each other—
I could feel you laugh.

Anuradha BhowmikAnuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet from South Jersey. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Virginia Tech, and she graduated with a B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Anuradha has been awarded a Grin City Collective Emerging Artist Residency, as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Susquehanna Review, The Boiler, and elsewhere.