The dhol beats outside her dressing room
in the gray Hindu temple.
She sits on a folding chair, waiting,
watching through the room’s only window,
the groom on his mountain-like horse,
the naked oaks shaking in the December wind,
Her new friends chatter.
The red of her silk sari,
and of her nails, and lips
makes her excited.
Red is the color of love, she dreams.
Gold, on her neck, and wrists,
weighing her pierced ears, is her only wealth
nine thousand miles from home.
“Never leave the home without gold,”
her mother had told her as she guided
gold bangles onto her daughter’s wrists.
Only the anklets on her feet are silver,
and they hide under the drape of her dress.
She admires herself in the mirror, and remembers
last year, sixteen, sitting on her maroon suitcase
so her mother could close up her belongings to go.
The homemade butter pecan ice-cream,
her last meal before leaving Punjab.