‘Self-Generated Grief Rituals’ by Sunita Theiss

Your books stacked along the wall

frame the photo of a guru without a name.

His sober face reveals little. I wonder if

he ever made a promise to you.

I sprinkle rosewater on my hair and clothes—

reminders of the summer sun’s brightness

reflected in your eyes, of drinking

Rooh Afza mixed with milk and ice.

Of your body’s subtle sway as you

chopped ginger carefully with a blue knife,

sang songs from black and white films,

poured chai into chipped green mugs.

We never held green bottles in our hands,

Toasting one another’s victories or

grieving in silence. Never drank

to make other people more interesting.

But in the bar after church, I think of you

and order another.In the quiet hours

I will read your advice, offerings

or disappointed missives, filled with regret.

It took two years to abandon the guru for Jesus,

Took five years to make tea like you,

Seven years to forget the sound of your voice,

Ten, to read words penned in your own hand.

Eleven, to believe you forgave me.

Poet’s Bio: Sunita Theiss is a writer and communications strategist from Atlanta, GA. A second generation Indian-American, she writes primarily on themes of grief, religion, parenthood, and cultural tension.

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