Of toads and songs
A Friday fun 100-Word Story with Erica (+ a poem)
This 100-word story was a fun — and hopefully a little silly — one that was written in collaboration with Erica of Erica Drayton Writes fame a few weeks ago. Erica’s newsletter is what got me started on these Friday adventures. She wrote the first 50 words and sent it off to me. And I had to complete it with the next 50 words.
As you’ll see it was a fun one to do using our imaginations and wit. Hope you enjoy it.
100-Word Story with Erica
For four nights in a row a toad visited me. A good luck charm to let me know, in its own toad-like way, that whatever might go wrong, there would be a dead bug in its belly.
On the fifth night I dared to pat him gently on the head.
That made him sing. In his awful, raspy voice that made me clear my throat.
On the first day, he’d swallowed my ring. Out of ideas, I started singing along. At that, he too cleared his throat. Out came the ring. Voila! I knew my singing voice had its uses.
###& Reena Kapoor
I want to tell you about a recent poetry reading at the South Asian Literature and Arts Festival in the Bay Area where I was invited to read one of my poems “The Smuggler” (a personal fav) that I’m reposting here for you…
I wrote this poem in this post, remembering the time I first arrived in the United States as an earnest graduate student. The poem is an ode to what the gatekeepers at that entrypoint couldn’t have known i.e., what I carried in my heart, head and habit. They probably extrapolated in broad strokes where my life was headed but my particular sensibilities on ideas of home, a redefinition of self or an acceptance of my multitudinous identities were lost on them.
I arrive with so much more than I declare
offering him my meticulous all-caps customs form
keeping tight two suitcases, slapped four times
with labels of the university address underlined
No, I don’t have even $1000 in cash
I answer solemnly, then smile, then don’t
Where would I even get that?
Yessir, only two suitcases to my name
They’ll have to suffice to build a whole life
What does he even know of what I left behind?
All he sees is me: riven, anxious, bursting
for the new world where I arrive
with not much to my name, even less to declare
Only two suitcases? He asks again
So little to declare in my suitcases with
clothes ironed into self-conscious shields
two pairs of new shoes for places on a paper map
no accounting for the first snow that’ll devour them
Will I need to sell the pieces of jewelry my mother
pressed with her tears into my hand?
Tears I won’t understand for another few decades
Customs guy barks again, but what else you bringing?
Any food in there? Suspicion deepens his lines
I assure him there is none. No, nothing, nothing really
He slaps my passport back, turns away, lets me pass!
I hesitate to go. So “fresh off the plane”, I’ll come to laugh
Holding dear all tangible goods that cling back to me
No guilt for what I didn’t declare, besides my literal baggage
I didn’t mention the taste on my tongue
which will torture my senses for rebirth
I didn’t mention the map of home
imprinted on my skin bursting to build
I didn’t mention colors my eyes thirst for
in flowers I’ve never seen before
I didn’t mention that old music that rings
every morning trailing my dreams
I didn’t mention the torch I carry
for familiar warmth and touch and love
Sprouting new shoots on my memory tomb
signed with this new world’s epitaph
Don’t ask an immigrant what she has in her suitcase
She’ll surprise you with mounds of denial
All that she brings hidden in her are stories of past life threads
And if you did demand it, she couldn’t show you anyway
She’d have to tear off her skin, dissect every cell to look
Even then all you’d see is blood and heart and sweat
You still won’t locate it, all that resides, persists
Yet everything of the new she will remake in her own way
You’ll have to come find her decades later to see…
…what she got away with!
-Reena | 2022