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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

reflections on family

the living room is on the ground floor.
I sit with my bahini on the couch
and watch Cinderella in Hindi.
She asks me – will you comb my hair?

Her hair so thick I could secure buildings with it.
Pulling the comb through it,
my own hair so much thinner,
brittle, prone to breakage.
Mero aaphno,
all my own.

Bahini watches tv at breakfast – watches tv before dinner –
watches tv before bed,
sitting in the room she shares with aama and ba.

she watches more tv then I expected Nepali children to watch,
probably less then children in Boulder who go to Waldorf schools
and eat rice cakes and kale chips for snacks.

I undo my expectations like I undo the knots in her hair.
where did I get all these ideas, anyway?

when I get to my room and I turn on both lights
she also says
“not both. it’s a waste.”
a thing I’d never think of.
“don’t run the water while you wash.”
all the gallons I’ve let pass me by.

malaai dukkha laagyo
is the thing the same in another language?
i have a different appetite here.
i ask for spicy things
and milk

in the morning there is
the smog over the sun
and the dogs barking.
aama opens the door to the patio and climbs the stairs –
a mystery on the roof.
in the kitchen there are candles lit in the closet.

she serves me yellow soup in laddlefuls of expectance,
I am always meeting her brown eyes
and saying thik chaa,
– it is enough.

How do women grow here?
not as tall as back home.
I walk too fast down the streets,
catch my body in mirrors
poised to defend itself

History not a thing I can undo,
but I thing I come to know.
Dodging moterbikes on the dusty roads,
coughing up my heart in my lungs.

all the cities of the world multiply in traffic collisions
and corner stores
I thank god I am five foot two
the same size
and thickness as any man on the street

Kasto chaa?
I break off the mask and gasp for air
the long leaving of home for the things that
you don’t know that you know

wrapping my head so God doesn’t know,
I’m coming up behind her,
I’m coming up fast.