Gypsy Girls

Volume 14:4, Fall 2013
Prose Poem Issue

Gypsy Girls

They came every year, never the same ones, never the same time of year. Alighted upon an abandoned cricket field, a flock of flapping geese, pitched tarpaulin tents by the light of street lamps. Early mornings, smoke rose from piles of stones. Children gathered sticks and twigs, older boys stole fuel ? dead branches from peepul trees, straw or dried cow dung cakes from hillsides. Women walked in long multicolored skirts, bangles tinkling on arms, gungroos on feet, brass urns on heads.

From behind a banyan tree, I untied the plantain leaf I’d torn from clumps outside our back door. Ate a chapati, slapping dough between my cheeks. Two young girls saw me, giggled, turned, disappeared into their tents, returned. I stretched out my hand. They ran. I left portions on plantain leaves, walked away. We did this everyday.

We never spoke.

Then, that day came. It happened every year. Uniformed police in Gandhi caps, lathis displayed. I watched the girls flee with their families, plantain leaves still warm in my palm.