Creative

Two Poems by Anjali Enjeti

this-year-i-resolve-to-17Alias

INTRODUCTION

In the months before I got married,
468 people asked me whether I was keeping my name.

Zero asked my fiancé.

I decided to
hy-phen-ate
because I wanted to
shut-everyone-up.

As a feminist,
my decision
should have been
cut-and-dry.

But I grew up in the
Deep South
where
husbands ingested their wives’ names
like Pac Man after pellets.

I was torn.

HISTORY

My surname-before-marriage,
maiden name if you’re retro —
is Enjeti,
an eponym for an ancient Indian town,
though my family’s diaspora has extended
oceans beyond the motherland.

HOOKED ON PHONICS

I’ve e-nun-ci-a-ted my name my whole life.
Even a telephone introduction compels a mini-monologue:

“en-JET-ee.
 
E
n as in Nancy,
j
e
t as in Tom,
i.”

PSYCHOLOGY

Nancy and Tom are neither childhood friends, nor neighbors.
These linguistic choices
reflect
a deep-seeded envy
for easy, pronounceable, white-sounding names,
a subliminal ethnic erasure.

Most days, though,
I adore my last name’s punchy patronymic,
its rhythm, its musicality,
its phonemic rapport with Anjali.

To wit,
inquiries about whether my last name would secede
from its nuclear union
compounded my agony.
 
PHILOSOPHY

Surnames embody, simultaneously,
testimony and obliteration,
an unequivocal gain and loss,
a dichotomy of DNA.

My forfeiture would strip me
of culture and race,
just like when, in holy matrimony,
my Puerto Rican grandfather’s name
redacted my Austrian grandmother’s.

WISHFUL THINKING

Were I a poet,
I’d compose a sonnet,
and dedicate each of its fourteen lines
to each generation of abandoned matrilineal surnames
in my bloodline.

DECISION

In the eleventh hour,
I chose to expand rather than contract,
to intertwine our complicated histories, our baggage,
to dodge what I perceived as the merciless pruning
of our merging family trees.

And though,
at times,
hy-phen-a-tion
is cumbersome,

a name is merely a title –

a glimpse, a teaser, a savory appetizer
of what’s to come.

It should never be
burdened or trusted
with telling
the whole, unabridged, multilayered
story.

***

Dal, Done

 
Tiny
yellow
half-beads,
a half-life ago
simmer
in
tin pots.

Sunset flames
release
ghosts.

Avva squats.
Silver rings,
chipped nail polish adorn her toes.
Her hair, a frayed rope,
traces
her spine.

Half-hiding
a smile
behind her
sari’s pallu,
she stirs and sighs as

vapors
fog her
lenses.

She tosses
a pinch of salt.
Bangles clink and shimmy
along bony wrists.
Cumin, coriander fleck
thin
skin.

“Are you hungry, Anju?”
she asks,
spooning
clouds of rice.

Smashing
dal between palms,
my tongue tastes
along
life lines.

Curds drip
down
my
chin.

Oceans and decades since,
my soul hungers for
flavors fading fast.

“I’m hungry, Avva,”
I call to an empty kitchen,
where

tiny
yellow
half beads,
like half moons,
tease fingers,
with their
raw, unripened
remains.


Anjali Enjeti

Anjali Enjeti

Anjali Enjeti is an award-winning essayist, journalist, and literary critic. Her work has appeared in NPR, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, NBC, The Guardian, the New York Times, Washington Post, Rewire News, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing in the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University, and can be found @anjalienjeti.

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