my father is a man of many colors.
on the nights when the moon stays asleep,
he lotions his palms with pomegranate juice.
the sugared blood pools in the creases of his
skin, staining it India’s red.
sometimes, my father scrubs his hands until
they are nothing but flesh & fruit rinds.
when he was younger—all skinned knees and pocket
knives—he must've slipped on a thousand marbles.
my father’s father was a welder who rolled and spun
steel into tiny spheres.
when he died, my father’s hands became blue and
free of pocket knives. to this day, he keeps a bag
of marbles on our mantle.
from time to time, he shakes the cool metal into
his open palms and waterfalls it back and forth.
see, this is the trouble with blue hands:
they never let go of the things that scar them.
they try so hard to be red again.
my father doesn't like whistling because
an old woman in India told him it was uncivilized.
she perched herself on the edge of the Ganges River
and kneaded dough with hands of stone.
my father's hands were so calloused and bumpy,
worn from the years he spent cradling marbles and pomegranates,
so she taught him how to smoothen his skin by soaking it in
the river and practicing henna on the rough patches.
in the creases where pomegranate juice once
gathered was now India’s orange blood.
my father was the most deliberate artist.
armed with a camel hair brush gifted to him
by a local who is now somewhere far off, he
softened himself by painting and repainting
the same flesh.
now, the old woman on the Ganges has eggshell hands.
she rests on a bed of banyan leaves and floats through
the heart of the river, teaching men how to calm their
skin with the breath of India.
for the span of one thousand moons, my father washed his hands
in the banks of the water, jingled a bag of marbles, and whistled
a tune that only red, blue, and orange could understand.