Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Payday

I

At twenty three I imagined,
I could be free if I had money –
like the little bit it took
to buy five diamonds
and a pretty Geneve watch.
“When you earn you living
go buy those foolish trinkets”
My father once said.
It was not much more
than loose change for him
to grant me my harmless whim.
It was his habit to deny me
such and other “trinkets”
and my freedom to be
me, craft my life as I willed.
Go where my heart lead me.



II

At twenty three I imagined,
my first paycheck would
pry open my gilded cage.
I would no longer need
to conform or oblige,
or be arranged to marry
a “good” Bengali boy
of verifiable antecedent.
Not someone with dreamy eyes
who loved me with quiet fervor
only to be dismissed as
“an unsuitable adolescent crush”
I could wear my five
diamonds and watch
to feel richly fulfilled
on those ordinary days.


III

At twenty three I imagined,
I had come into my own.
I wore my hair in a chignon
for gravitas beyond my years.
Felt flushed with pride when
men held doors open for me
and addressed me ‘Ma’am”
Yet deep inside I felt pain.
My days at work were steeped
in mediocre mostly trivial pursuits.
I was forgetting what they
taught me in college and
learning to look busy,
while feeling empty
about how far I was from
where I longed to be.

IV


At twenty three I imagined
I would go buy five diamonds
with my first paycheck.
To prove to my father what
he would not even notice.
It was a short walk down a
tree-lined road to where monies
were doled. I stood voucher in hand
waiting my turn to be given
my three thousand something
in bills of fifty. I felt richer
than I ever did as I counted
what I had made for twenty
days of work. I had earned
my right to buy foolish trinkets -
five diamonds and a Geneve watch.


V

I twenty three I imagined,
I was a creature of circumstance
and could be liberated from ties
that bound when I earned my
daily bread. I did not know then
I would never go to the jewelry store
for my beloved trinkets – not that
first payday or ever after. Instead
I would save for rainy days that
would come visiting in due season.
I would trade diamonds for
a piece of candy – celebrate in solitude.
I did not know that one day, I would
have enough to last ten years of rain
and not have a dream left to dream,
or a cage left to pry open and flee.

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