Lalita Noronha

Prawn Woman

Orbit: The Asian American Issue
Volume 15:3, Summer 2014

Prawn Woman

When I open the door, she smiles as if we’ve met before,
a wide rimmed basket on her head.

Four hundred grams, she asks, lowering basket to floor,
she squats at the door, waits for no answer.

I shake my head no. No. I don’t want any. I don’t live here.
This is where my mother lives—lived, I say in broken Hindi.

She nods. She knows. Boats just came in, she says, slipping prawns
through fingers. Pink comma-shaped rain.

One by one, she peels off shells, tosses them aside.
Her hands dance, bangles tinkle, the piles grow—translucent coats, bare bodies.

One by one, she pierces the tops, pulls out black stringy guts.
Surgical precision.

Four hundred grams, she says, wrapping it up.
I reach for my wallet, separate rupees from dollars.

Nai, nai, not today, your mother paid me on Tuesdays.
She kept accounts, paid me half, saved the rest. For me.

Her voice is watery.
I know you, she says. Your mother always spoke of you.

You live in Umreeka. You sent us used clothes.
Your children’s, Umreekan, just like new.

From a pouch, she takes out a faded photograph.
See? You remember this pant?



Born in India, Lalita Noronha came to the U.S. on a Fulbright travel grant and earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology/Biochemistry. She is a research scientist, writer, poet, teacher, and editor for The Baltimore Review. She is the author of a short story collection Where Monsoons Cry (Black Words Press, 2004) and two poetry books, Mustard Seed: A Collage of Science, Art and Love Poems (Apprentice Press, 2016), and the chapbook Her Skin Phyllo-thin (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Other credits include two Maryland Individual Artist Awards (in fiction and poetry), and Pushcart prize nominations (in poetry and creative nonfiction), and readings/interviews on WYPR's "The Signal." To read more by this author, see the Museum Issue.