First Petition

it is a Thursday
& no one out on this long street
looks like your mother
so you go home
wrap yourself in Form I-130
knit a nest with a ballpoint pen
limn your ken inside a placeholder
smooth your limbs into a square
to beg for a place for your first space
write a name into the petition, in thin
improbable syllables
    —no one calls her by this name, in the elsewhere
because they know her fish-market haggle:
purse tucked at the waist, sari pleats pulsing like flushed gills
    —no one, except the men
who will ask her ma’am can you name two national holidays?
& ma’am who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
so you plan it out, letter by letter in letters,
your mouth cupped to her cataracts
ma, just listen & answer the men who ask
how she came to know you, if she intends to remain here,
& sir, for how long have you known
that ma was a bowl made for two, brimming
beyond any border, red
as the arrival of her face seven years later,
a paper apparition drawn closer & closer to you by a queue
unknotting at a frayed horizon
in an airport
it is a Thursday
& suddenly she walks
through the passport photograph
you once stapled at the edge of a petition
to anchor her womb
to your migrating heart

“First Petition” from Curb by Divya Victor. Copyright © 2021 by Divya Victor. Used with permission of the publisher, Nightboat Books. All rights reserved.