Sindya Bhanoo is a finalist for The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
“Malliga Homes” first appeared in Granta.
Mr. Swaminathan died suddenly, as he was walking back to his flat from the Veg dining hall after dinner. He was ahead of me on the path, and I saw him slow down. His gait changed from a fast stride to a slower, hunched walk. His left arm went limp. He lost his footing and crumpled to the ground. If I had not been swift, I imagine he would have hit his head on the cement. There would have been blood. But I caught up with him. Before he fell, I squatted to the ground and put my hands out, and his head fell directly into my open palms. Carefully, I slipped my hands out from behind his head, set it gently on the cement and sat at his side talking to him. His left eye looked lower than his right. His left cheek sagged, as if it might slide off.
Richard Hoffman|A Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory
Calvary Bruce Bond
What you have heard is half true, half forgotten. It’s what we have, a rubric written in old blood whose spirit of inclusion admits the occasional invention, the apocryphal goat at midnight, for one, who has broken down the gate again, and wandered through the refuse of our neighbors. Forgive him. Him and the others of a now more distant Jerusalem whose pattern of lesser hardships and small routines goes largely unreported. No less imagined than the clouds of certain portraits of the killing, the same weather that hung above the clueless who pulled in their laundry, looking up to see future there. What they do not know cannot save them. Or bring them comfort.Or the vague weight of clouds when they make a night of day. Imagine then, once the body is deposed, the men who take the burden on their shoulders go nameless through the margins to the grave. Forgive them.They know not what they do. Take this young man, a soldier of low rank, his wave of nausea slow to gather and withdraw into the obscurities holy books are made of. He is sitting beneath an olive tree, counting coins, fouled with blood, less a true believer in the entitlements of kings than an otherwise impoverished soul with a wife, an oath, a child. A drudge of circumstance.That is the story he tells himself, and the need for the ever better listener feels fundamental, as work is, and wine at dusk, and whatever cut of meat and means the heirs of grief and privilege refuse.
In the living room of my parents’ home in Tripoli, Lebanon, an elaborate family tree is displayed in a golden frame. It is a constant reminder of a fatalistic vision of life’s ultimate purpose: reproduction. Males are depicted as branches; females as leaves. The thriving of the tree relies on branches like mine. A single man who bears no new branches or leaves could condemn an entire lineage to an end.