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‘Rajkumarie’ by Rashanda Williams

— Joyce Chong

Princess—the rowing woman always / stooped, squatted low plinking vegetable peels into thin / bowls?

Oh, how I love poems that trace family and bloodline and division and all the things that are particular to existing as a second generation immigrant. There is a palpable familiarity in Rashanda Williams’ poem ‘Rajkumarie’ published in Cosmonauts Avenue. The details of a grandmother not quite one’s own, but more than simply a stranger in a poem.

She’d wash, clip / plastic bags and Ziplocs to clotheslines. I’d unclip them, / lest the hot white American boy down the street see.

This poem is one part dedication, one part storytelling. It’s remarkable in the way spare yet succinct details can create a complete sense of not only a person, but a human in motion; the dynamics with those around them, or the crux at which two decisive minds meet and conflict and settle. The hard-to-determine, not always discernible way love runs silent through the blood.

Once, I caught her trying to write / my name on a scrap of paper, each letter struggling / to take form.

Cosmonauts Avenue