The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Brown Girl Chromatography by Anuradha Bhowmik

This selection, chosen by guest editor Tierney Bailey, is from Brown Girl Chromatography by Anuradha Bhowmik, released by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2022.

Blue Collar Brown

Baba ordered from the Kmart catalog
after he saw the stick-pen circles drawn
on store circulars, featuring pink Jeeps

that flashed in ads between cartoons.
If I didn’t watch Blue’s Clues so much,
I could’ve found the ones Baba left—

but he was rehearsed: his finger traced
down column K in the Yellow Pages.
Was he wearing the decade-old bifocals

from Bangladesh? He couldn’t read
the fine print without them. I could’ve
watched where he stopped on the listings,

listened for digits clicking on the keypad.
Perhaps the corded tendons in my neck
told him to be timely: before the beeps,

before anticipation unfolded from
my clasped hands. I tangled and twirled
the curly cord when the line was in-use,

but he was tactful, with his white coat
locked away in a suitcase. He once made
deliveries. On the opposite end, he waited

for the absent phone operator. I could’ve
listened for the cue of elevator music,
counted the seconds he was placed on hold—

I’d like to order a Barbie car.
The silent salesperson didn’t ask him
to enunciate his thick Bangla-English,

with aspirated spaces for articles—
Mamoni, the Barbie car is on backorder.
Until the girly-girl phase faded when

I was eight, I waited for the delivery
at the staircase—lost before I could
unclip the off-the-hook secret

and set it in the cradle. It will be here soon.
The call got lost and crackled
with the dial tone echo in the coil.

Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is the 2021 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for her first collection Brown Girl Chromatography (Pitt Poetry Series, 2022). Bhowmik is a Kundiman Fellow and a 2018 AWP Intro Journals Project Winner in Poetry. She lives in Philadelphia.

Tierney Bailey is a Libra, a lover of science fiction and poetry, and is a dice-collecting gremlin. Currently, Tierney is Associate Poetry Editor with Sundress Publications, a copyeditor at Strange Horizons, Associate Editor with PodCastle, and a freelance graphic designer. She has earned a BA from the University of Indianapolis and a Masters Degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College.

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