The Masala Trail

By: Kanika Ahuja



My grandmother’s hands are stained sunset, haldi*
encrusted under fingernails like moti-choor**.

She leaves behind sepia tinted impressions
on ivory dinnerware like an amateur magician,

fingerprints waiting to be wiped before
the final reveal of another sun kissed meal.

My grandmother’s hands smell of cinnamon
and vanilla, one smell always mistaken

for the other. She dusts sugar off hands,
each speck the aftermath of a miracle,

as if the secret ingredient was always
a little extra sugar, the kind that swallows

the warmth on the palms it slides off of.
My grandmother’s cooking is a lighthouse

beckoning me home with each sunset glistening
on the horizon, which is to say, even today

I am an amateur sailor with a sweet tooth,
the sound of the oven my flickering Pole Star.

There are days I want to leave this house for the world,
but the scent of cinnamon runs circles around me.

This air is suffocating with the familiarity of home,
and I don’t know how to let go, my nose stuffed

even before the dinner is served, even before
the timer goes off, the sky still stained sunset.


*Haldi – Turmeric
**Moti-choor – Crushed Pearls


Kanika Ahuja

Kanika believes in the inexplicable joy of sunshines and smiles, hoarding verses on sticky notes in mason jars to be set free like paper boats on rainy days. A poet, performer and educator of poetry, Kanika works towards creating space for conversations through a pedagogy revolving around art and articulation. She is based in New Delhi, India, where she’s currently a Grad Student studying English Literature. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, at ObaaWoman, AYLY (Are You Lost Yet?), The Medley, and Airplane Poetry Movement’s Ultimate Poetry Anthology.