Dream of the Evil Servant

Reetika Vazirani

 

New Delhi, 1967

                1.
We kept war in the kitchen.
A set of ten bone china plates, now eight.
As if a perfumed guest stole her riches . . .
The next day she wanted to leave at noon.
I said, be back by four, I'm paying you.
She sat by the door,   
she put out her hand,  
her knuckles knocked against mine,
hard deliberate knuckles. I gave her cash.
Off to watch movies, off to smoke ganja.
                2.
She came back late and high as if my fear asked for it.
I called her junglee.
Everything went off late --
dinner, the children getting into bed;
but the guests understood:
they had servants too.
She stuck diaper pins in my children.
I cursed her openly.  Who shouted?
Or I cursed her silently and went my way.
She stole bangles my husband's mother bought,
bangles a hundred years old.  But she wore frayed jewelry
hawked on the street.  She was like a rock that nicked
furniture in corners you'd think only a rat could go.
                3.
Why didn't I dismiss her?
I don't know.  
She got old as I got old.
I could see her sharp shoulder bones
tighten, her knuckled skull.
I had to look at her.  It had to wound me.
Listen, said my mother. Yes mother, I listened, crouched in my head.
Looking over the flowered verandah she said:
Who are you to think you are beautiful?
What have you got to show?  
Go sit on your rag.
All my life I tended to looks,
they betrayed me. I bore you.
I am wretched.  Be my mother.  Be my maid.
 
This poem first appeared in The Kenyon Review, Spring 1999. © 1999 by Reetika Vazirani. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta by Reetika Vazirani
To replay errors
Independence by Reetika Vazirani
When I am nine, the British quit
The Lover by Reetika Vazirani
I took the train from Patiala,


Further Reading

Dreams
Monna Innominata [I dream of you, to wake]
by Christina Rossetti
The Book of a Thousand Eyes [A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding]
by Lyn Hejinian
A Bedtime Story For Mr. Lamb
by Arthur Nevis
A Book Said Dream and I Do
by Barbara Ras
A Dream Within a Dream
by Edgar Allan Poe
Bedside
by William Olsen
Counting
by Douglas Goetsch
Cradle Song
by William Blake
Darkness
by George Gordon Byron
Dear Tiara
by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dream In Which I Meet Myself
by Lynn Emanuel
Dream Song 1
by John Berryman
Dream Variations
by Langston Hughes
Dreaming About My Father
by Ed Ochester
Flying
by Sarah Arvio
Grasshopper
by Ron Padgett
He Dreams of Falling
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
His Heart
by Caroline Knox
I am Like a Desert Owl, an Owl Among the Ruins
by Noelle Kocot
I Might Have Dreamed This
by Kirsten Dierking
it was a dream
by Lucille Clifton
Japanese Lullaby
by Eugene Field
Joyride
by Ana Božičević
Kristin's Dream In November
by Bernadette Mayer
Last
by Maxine Scates
Lullaby of an Infant Chief
by Sir Walter Scott
Making the Bed
by Burt Kimmelman
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
Nocturne
by Wayne Miller
O Little Root of a Dream
by Paul Celan
Our eunuch dreams
by Dylan Thomas
Prologue of the Earthly Paradise
by William Morris
Raven's Last Dream
by Red Hawk
Scarecrow on Fire
by Dean Young
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
The Dream of the Just
by Dana Gelinas
The Dreamer
by Djuna Barnes
The Good-Morrow
by John Donne
The House
by Richard Wilbur
The Land of Nod
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Republic of Dreams
by Michael Palmer
The Sandman
by Margaret Thomson Janvier
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Song in the Dream
by Saskia Hamilton
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
Variation on the Word Sleep
by Margaret Atwood
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field
Poems about Regret
Apocalypse
by Gerald Stern
Exile
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Household Mechanics
by Sarah Mangold
Why Regret?
by Galway Kinnell