~After Naipaul’s “Tell Me Who to Kill”
~a thank you, to those who made the journey, before 

They built the train tracks
for memory, brakes to stop some,
others of sea and salt and jelly anemone.
The sting the train lay down:
the stitch marks across the back of you,
scars of a sometimes-broken sub-continent

and all the books in the world cannot tell it:
No Oxford degree, even the perfect pedigree 
goes nothing but dog, doggedly on you, 
against the sienna spectrums 
of your gorgeous skins, eclipsing the other’s vision
of your golden mind, but Africa

would promise a reprieve:
Another kind of servitude, yes,
but not for you.  Board the boat, 
maybe a passel of children and a guarded wife carried
in your wild mind, a yellow paper of learning, 
clutched in your hand, that they will try to tear from you—

and your mind—it sets sail in the wind.  
The ocean opens herself to you, 
and you feel the years of a homeland on its back, 
your own bruised back’s healing: 
It’s behind you now, as the water lays down the trail 
you will travel, before quitting your India   

carrying the chapati and love of mango 
to the impossibly sticky okra fields of Tanzania.  
You will find a movie theatre in Dar Es Salaam 
for dreaming.  A limestone quarry in Chunya 
for laying down new foundations.  A new life, 
though you knew, you knew—

it would not really be for you—
but for another generation, possibly two


Entrance to a Dutch Port, ca. 1665
Willem van de Velde II (Dutch)
Sanjana Nair

Previously published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Fence Magazine, JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, The Equalizer, Swimm, What Rough Beast, and No, Dear Magazine, Sanjana Nair has been part of the performative series Emotive Fruition in New York City and her piece The Lady Apple, a collaboration between poet and composer, was performed at Tribeca’s Flea Theater as well as featured on National Public Radio’s Soundcheck. Sanjana is a full-time professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.