If you've wondered how it must feel to be a stranger in a strange land, Kalpana Asok tells you in these gentle poems. Gentle, but with a hint of irony, as when, in the voice of a new arrival, an Indian woman introduces herself to a new American neighbor, and then, in an almost footnoted last line that lets us know she was never invited into the house: "Dear Ethel, Thank you for the lemonade
and the visits on your porch." The feeling of dislocation surfaces sharply in another, when she asks, "My mother's in my mirror/is she walled in/am I locked out . . . ." Vivid images greet us throughout, as she explores, wide-eyed, this new world, where a "chatty American" wears a "different baseball cap every day" and is "full of information." The gentle voice rises in indignation in strong, tightly crafted poems about social injustice, as in "I Can't Breathe," with a first stanza ending in "Yes, metoo." Remembering or perhaps dreaming, she gives us a "Tiger Preserve," with a "Lurching blind-drunk female /in the middle of the day/Slapping holy ground . . . ." The gentle voice returns in this lovely debut collection, ending with a lullaby, "Tenderly," in hummed syllables: "Umhmm, --Irene Willis
hmmm hmm hmm . . . ." Read it with delight and continued discovery.
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