On Landing

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April 2, 2023 by The Citron Review

by Sujash Purna


Sweltering Sylheti air isn’t helping enough with the sticky shirt on my back. I can’t grow wings. Gravity feels heavier in this country. I wonder how I got into this garish orange shirt, buttoned up at the neckbone tightly like I am a child of nine again. But I am nineteen.

My sister got married into safety to a pilot who makes enough that we can enjoy the air cooler during the unforgivable summer of 2013. I am not a pilot. I can’t grow wings. My brother-in-law sometimes tells me I can just end it by jumping off a roof. My mom asks me why I just don’t die.

The tea steams into the dining room from the kitchen and out the grilled window and the furtive texts sprout out into the tiny screen of my mom’s Nokia phone that I have been secretly texting my soon-to-be-girlfriend back in America from. I narrate like fools of what’s going on the other side of the Atlantic to my mom and sister who nod and look away into the immortal TV in a mantra trance of red, green, blue cinematic episodes of some Hindi soap opera.

The slow motion scandals. Life in slow motion.

Carefully tied around our ankles are anvils of uncertainty about what our future holds.

Last night, my mom asked me if I wanted to marry that girl. I couldn’t say yes or no since we are not even dating. She does the same again underneath the buzzing ceiling fan as she walks up and down the tiled floor of my sister’s husband’s condo that we are staying in.

She is trying to run away from diabetes. I am trying to run away from this moment.

I say I have to focus on my studies more.

Everything feels like a responsibility around my family.

Last week I did try to jump off the roof to end this all. But I can’t go back now, after all these times, so I chose not to.

Reality is we don’t have money to continue my studies in the US. I can’t take loans since I am no citizen.

The neatly-knitted-Target-or-Kohls-sweater-wearing Admissions office folks tricked us with their charming American smiles (nothing works like a little attention from a white man to our brown burning souls) and we thought we’d have to pay the tuition only for one year, just like schools in Bangladesh.

I told the Reality to my dad and then there was silence for a while. I found out when I landed in Bangladesh for the summer that my mom had a heart attack. That might have been the end of our worlds as we knew it. But she survived, and we chose to live with the price of our ambitions.

I can’t grow wings. Gravity feels heavier anywhere if you’re born middle-class and have high hopes like the privileged folks do.

There is no rags to riches story here. In Sylhet, it’s just an endless night. Wistful that I wish I knew better, I can hear Tom Waits’s Closing Time on loop in the back of my head, and the tomcat feelings keep growing from one long sigh to another.

We can’t grow wings, so we decide to accept our gravity. On landing we find we can’t really turn our lives just like people on TV do, but we keep narrating things as they appear in our own timelines, in slow motion, and somehow the hardest parts keep repeating without giving any script to read from.


Sujash Purna is a Bangladeshi poet and photographer. He is the author of Epidemic of Nostalgia (Finishing Line Press). His poetry appeared in South Carolina Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, Kansas City Voices, Poetry Salzburg Review, Gutter, Stonecoast Review, and others. His photography can be found on Instagram @poeticnomadic



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