Surabhi Balachander: May 2017 Poet of the Month
Jeremy Bishop

Jeremy Bishop

incorrigible disturbers of the peace*


Back then we cut our own heads

out of Polaroid pictures

and glued them to Popsicle sticks.

Made sweaters stamped with snowflakes,

and blue paper that fell apart

under our oily fingers.

We were given the alphabet

block-lettered on white paper,

and told to fill it in.

With any color we liked,

as long as it stayed inside the lines.

Later we cut away the extra paper,

threw our mistakes in the recycling

and threaded twenty-six letters

onto long strands of yarn.

All these crafts to occupy

our tiny hands, to keep them

from poking into anything

we might disturb.

Years later I had to remember,

teach my hands again to pry

where they were told they didn’t belong.


            * “… all societies have battled with the incorrigible disturber of the peace — the artist.”

-- James Baldwin, “The Creative Process”




for my parents


Phone service cuts out

as soon as you enter the tunnel

connecting Detroit to Windsor,

unless you want to pay extra.


I tear into a huge bhatura

in Berkeley, like we’ve done

in Paris, Delhi, and Toronto.

Dozens of bhaturas

like a bouquet of balloons.


I didn’t tell you that last night

I spent thirteen hours in bed.

Or that I haven’t been eating

on the weekends.


What temperature is it there right now?


You barrel across Ontario

in your new black SUV,

Bluetooth siphoning the playlists

I’ve uploaded to your phones.


I gently burn eggplant curry

in my apartment, and

it sets off the smoke alarm.


Pillaiyar and Murugan were challenged

to race around the world, to circle it

three times. The prize was a holy mango.

Murugan took off at top speed on his peacock,

but Pillaiyar walked three times

around his parents.

You are my world.

Surabhi Balachander grew up in Indiana and will graduate from Stanford University in June with a B. A. in English and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. This is her first publication.