(AWP Intro Journal Award Winner)



Blue Collar Brown


Baba ordered from the Kmart catalog

after he saw the stick-pen circles drawn

on store circulars, featuring pink Jeeps


that flashed in ads between cartoons.

If I didn’t watch Blue’s Clues so much,

I could’ve found the ones Baba left—


but he was rehearsed: his finger traced

down column K in the Yellow Pages.

Was he wearing the decade-old bifocals


from Bangladesh? He couldn’t read

the fine print without them. I could’ve

watched where he stopped on the listings,


listened for digits clicking on the keypad.

Perhaps the corded tendons in my neck

told him to be timely: before the beeps,


before anticipation unfolded from

my clasped hands. I tangled and twirled

the curly cord when the line was in-use,


but he was tactful, with his white coat

locked away in a suitcase. He once made

deliveries. On the opposite end, he waited


for the absent phone operator. I could’ve

listened for the cue of elevator music,

counted the seconds he was placed on hold—


I’d like to order a Barbie car.

The silent salesperson didn’t ask him

to enunciate his thick Bangla-English,


with aspirated spaces for articles—

Mamoni, the Barbie car is on backorder.

Until the girly-girl phase faded when


I was eight, I waited for the delivery

at the staircase—lost before I could

unclip the off-the-hook secret


and set it in the cradle. It will be here soon.

The call got lost and crackled

with the dial tone echo in the coil.

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