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"Playing in the Palloo"

Her fingers pleated and danced, and I awaited

the final flourish, the toss of that dazzle-drape

over her shoulder — the palloo, oh, that palloo!

She couldn't dodge me as I captured the swathe

of iridescence and fashioned a portal for my

small body. That light slipping through? Stars,

guiding my journey through caves of jade and

emerald, until I turned and burrowed into a

cache of amber, seeking creatures stunned by

the pour of resin, then turned again, to swim

into the lotus lake, leap within the peacock prism.

I blunder as an adult, as I attempt to drape my own

saree, unable to duplicate my mother's finger dance.

My hands cramp from the unaccustomed motions,

then release the fabric to the ground. When I drop

into the spill, I close my eyes, pull my mother's

palloo around my ears, and hear it rustle into song.

She never knew that I placed the knotted ends in my

mouth, tasted detergent and sunshine and bougainvillea

as I sucked out the stories with my tongue.

* The "palloo" is the portion of a saree that falls in long folds from the shoulder

"Playing in the Palloo" first published in Crosswinds Literary Journal

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