Ode to Uncles

As a preteen                I saw too many           big round
bellies, small hips,      farting uncles              smelly uncles             

alcohol bottle              uncles cussing             everyone
their mothers               sisters                          brothers

cousins                        and other         sober               uncles             
asking for         money, meal,              clothing, bedding,       company,

companion after companion                           child after child
divorce after divorce                                       lives after                    telling


to woo women                        into marriages,             have 6 children
then refuge seeking uncles                   join ashram               to become celibate

Grinning mustache uncles      my fingers played with           their giant beards
Snoring uncles                        giant    pig                   roaring            nostril uncles                          

walked me in parks                 got me grapes                         from the street side                
vendor uncles                          after bargaining            Rs. 6               uncles

often concealed face                behind newspapers or            English magazines             
or half-moon                            shaving cream


in mirrors                                made jokes on little                 girls like me   
You are a fool/ फूल/ phul       implying flower           in Hindi

their laughter               intended emphasis                  on the flower
while aunties               in the kitchen               juggled dish

after dish after             cooking meal                          Aunties tapped
hot rotis                       their hands                  trapped in love,

ghee and                      uncles                          told the girls                                  
Let me help you with homework, your aunties are math victims;
making roti is their sole pleasure.

Pleading fraud uncles             asked aunties                           to save them
with savings                           jewelry,                        pale currency
a routine                                  as a preteen                 I saw too many           uncles.

speed up          slow down          change the music

                                                                                                      for anonymous drivers at risk:

“Muslim ride-share driver captured one passenger’s racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic comments to show the world that drivers need more protection.”

                                                                                                            -Now This News

Every morning you book a cab
sit sophisticated,
scrolling up and down,
look outside when tired.

Have you ever looked
past the roads passing by,
at the cab driver sprawled out in old jeans,
fading grey tee, ear pierced,
and the road that follows?

No, not the road from the windscreen,
                                                his stubble, I mean,
his stubble holds
weight long hidden.

His controlled acceleration,
no body movement,
the speedometer and the music mirrors
your mind. His journey
is to pick and pause for
_______                      after                ________                      after                        ________

Wait for pleasantries,
                                                You have arrived,
                                                Your destination is on the right.

You sense a warmth in that voice
maybe it’s the heated-up device.
The greying road signs
go unread, unrequired.

He dives into                silence—
                                                                            when a drunk _______ calls him a Paki, a d-bag,
                                                             shit-talks radical Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Black lives—
afraid of losing his job,
cooped up in torn jeans and fading grey tee,

                                                       you stay on the screaming screen,and tell him to
                                                                        speed up,
                                                                        slow down,
                                                                        or change the music.


Varsha Kalyani is a poet, flash fiction writer and an educator from Jaipur, India, currently based out of Reston, Virginia. She completed MFA at St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn in May 2020. She teaches rhetoric and composition. In the past, she served as poetry co-editor for The Canopy Review. In her free time, she personifies and objectifies inanimate objects in her room. TWITTER & INSTAGRAM