Birthday Photograph, 1997

Brown eyes fixate on a fudge cake bordered by white
candle flames. Red sari threads pinched in polished
fingertips, glass bangles dangle from thin wrists.
Carnation lips curl like bobbed black Bengali hair: bangs
veil the birthmark crescent; round teep from a sticker
sheet fixed between bushy brows. White apartment
walls pasted with past-worn teeps taken off at bedtime:
constellations left behind in Atlantic City ’97. Before
Northfield—go back to 7-Eleven, dot head. Caught
red-handed for being blue collar brown in a white
town? This is America, Arab. Suburban September 11th
schools? Here’s your red locker: 9-11-21 is the combo
for the sandwich your mom made me at Subway. Jerseys
stitched in school spirit fade with the glory of exclusion.
True patriots in red and white stripes stomp school halls,
scream bomb at the brown, pound fists for victory.
All eyes lock on a glossed, four-by-six toddler terrorist:
rip off the red dot, bitch.

Anuradha Bhowmik is a Bangladeshi-American poet and writer from South Jersey. She is an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech, where she is currently the poetry editor for the minnesota review. She graduated with a BA in Women’s & Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Anuradha has been awarded a Grin City Collective Emerging Artist Residency, as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in The Boiler, Origins, Pithead Chapel, Lunch Ticket, After the Pause, Lumen, and elsewhere.