at the Chaat House on the end of South Avenue

wedged between the Italian restaurant 

and the slowly-dying bookstore, I stare 

at the CLOSED sign’s obituary. the books

groan against the window display, not loathed

just unloved—but the Chaat House burns 

with the struggle to live, the bruised walls

blackened with the spidery handwriting 

of the Gora. as the mouth of the spray gun spits 

on a cluster of Bollywood posters, 

inky blood trickles from paki, terrorist. 

the man wrote go back to your own country,

but the Chaat House on the end of South Avenue

is a country within a country, where

browns and whites are immigrants alike, seeking

refuge in spoonfuls of saffron and cumin 

and ladles of the brown man’s simple dream.

in haste, he left the Chaat House for dead

but still it refused to perish. because

the diwali string lights coiled around

the window panes are still gently flickering, 

the Indian magazines still fluttering

in bitter autumn wind. because tomorrow,

the tearful brown man will still hang

a plastic sign that says OPEN, welcoming

a world so desperate 

to keep him out.

Kanchan Naik

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