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Aanika Eragam - Summer Issue 2021

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Aanika Eragam is a rising senior at Milton High School in Milton, Georgia. She is the 2021 Atlanta Youth Poet Laureate, and her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Bennington College, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been published in Teen Vogue and Atlanta Magazine, among others. Outside of writing, she is passionate about history and politics.


Listen to SOREN LIT Podcast- Episode #3, Aanika Eragam: https://anchor.fm/melodie-rodgers/episodes/Aanika-Eragam---Summer-Issue-2021-e133rct








ON HOME (OR THE LACK THEREOF) by Aanika Eragam


Here,

I do not know who I am.

An American, I proclaim,

In the dry, carpet fiber syllables

Falling like maple leaves from

My accentless tongue.

It’s scary carrying culture in this country.

I remember the time I wore a kurta

To school and got teased mercilessly

By incarnadine children who bottled

Venom in their veins and ice in their eyes.

Last month, another set of snake tongues yelled

“Fuck Indians!” while my mother and I

crossed the street. To them, our fear was funny.

To them, our fear is always funny. I think it’s funny

how quickly this melting pot reached its boiling point.

I think it’s funny how quickly I learned to hide my dal rice

and starve silently at lunch instead. Mother would hold up my

Untouched lunchbox with shaking hands, fury

Rolling off her in heat waves, ask me if

We should leave, go back, her eyes pooling

Over like the village well, fists grasping

At my arms like chipped rocks.

No, I would say,

This is home.

But the words still felt

Stale on my tongue.


There,

Everyone tells me who to be.

Grandmother balks at my hairy knees

and potato-skin arms,

Tells me to cover up, gives me a long-sleeved

kurta and leggings suited for hibernation,

As if the raging heat only applies to the boys,

Who choke on dust and smog

Untangling the village labyrinth.

Girls in two braids even like rice crops

invite me to play.

They ask me what it's like in America.

They laugh each time I attempt to speak in our mother tongue,

and I realize to them, our language is more sacred

than the air we breathe.


I feel ashamed. I feel like a butcher

flattening each syllable to make it palatable.

I feel that there, too, I am a spectacle.

There too, I only fit in when my mouth is shut.

But these girls, they smile like me,

and I want them to want me.

The next day, Mother

Packs up the tattered suitcase

Smelling of jalebi and jaggery.

I tell her I want to see the girls again and she

says no, we are leaving soon anyway.

I don’t want to leave, I tell her,

This is home.

But the crows chuckle from

The telephone line and the

Thunder cracks out a roar.


In the end,

America tells me I’m Indian

And India tells me I’m American

And when I try to be both I

Find out that I am neither,

Too foreign to be native so I

Must only be alive in the ocean-clad

Expanse between two countries,

My mother’s womb

My only home.


-Aanika Eragam is a rising senior at Milton High School in Milton, Georgia. She is the 2021 Atlanta Youth Poet Laureate, and her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Bennington College, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been published in Teen Vogue and Atlanta Magazine, among others. Outside of writing, she is passionate about history and politics.


IG:


Listen to SOREN LIT Podcast- Episode #3, Aanika Eragam: https://anchor.fm/melodie-rodgers/episodes/Aanika-Eragam---Summer-Issue-2021-e133rct

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