Rapunzel’s Mother or a Pakistani Woman Newly Arrived in America

And with a cabbage, a box of eggs so clean she could easily forget

the source of their existence, my mother filled her silver cart

and moved in line to make her purchase.

 

The cashier turned a sharp glance at the small brown woman

with the pierced nose and covered head. She didn’t fit

into this, an American supermarket.

 

“And what?” asked the cashier, “Are you willing to pay for this?”

She held the head of lettuce in the air.  It reflected

off her rhinestone glasses and the hairspray in her hair.

 

“But this,” said my mother, “Is America. I thought there was no barter here.”

 

“Hmmmph,” said the cashier, “There’s give and take all over the world.

What made you think it would be different here?”

She shook her head and her plastic hair.

 

“But I have money.”  My mother tried to act like she didn’t care.

Her English broke all over her and fell apart in the air.

 

But the cashier cackled, “No, no, no, my dear, what I want is here.”

And she jabbed a nail, silver-painted and crooked at my young mother’s stomach

which I had just begun to share.

 

“That is the price you’ll have to pay, my dear, for this fresh lettuce

each egg that erupts into a new-blown head will be the property

of this here supermarket, country and nation.

 

“And don’t even think of running because we’ve got the goods on you.

Along with every other immigrant, we’ve got your passport

your foreign passport right here.”

 

She made to reach into her too tight jeans, but my mother, she ran out of there.

The shopping girl openly laughed behind her, and the lines and lines

of customers just stood there with their stupid grins.

 

My mother ran, the door opened by itself.

My mother ran, but she still found herself

in a foreign land, far away from home.

 

 

Note: When Rapunzel’s mother was pregnant, she developed a craving for vegetables from the

witch’s garden. When her father tried to steal the vegetables, he was caught and so terrified, he agreed to give up his wife’s firstborn child.