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.