RUSHI VYAS

Love Story with Rolex

But, I also think that epigenetic trauma can produce keloids—the ugly thing that overreacts to environmental stress … I think it makes us worriers, not warriors—compulsive performers of what Vijay Prashad has called 'the inward turn' among many South Asians in the US who prefer the accumulation of securities over the exercise of their rights.

Divya Victor

 

The man who earned the money Mom used to raise me
owned a gold Rolex. He wore it every day. At night, turning

in, he placed it in the corner of the closet drawer with his wallet, checks,
socks, patient notes, and handkerchiefs. He would not wear the watch

when, rotli between thumb and forefingers, he scooped shāk
and dāl with bhāt. He wore the watch with crisp white shirts,

glossy ties, and custom fit Mephistos. He wore the watch with blue jeans
and polos at Don Pablo’s. The Rolex, he thought, earned the respect

of Catholics and Jews, potential patients, clients, investment
experts, and important administrators. The man who earned

the money Mom used to raise me drove recklessly against
his risk aversion. I would cling to the locked Acura door handle

around each corner. Rolex lived for these moments—
quickened wrist blood beating against its cold ribs. The man

who earned the money Mom used to raise me kept Rolex polished,
listened to its needs. When its ticking slowed, he promptly consulted

its mechanic. He knew how to love it and had it been
left to my authority I would have let the watch burn with him

when he left this world. The man who earned
the money Mom used to raise me never asked

Rolex what kept it ticking all night, alone in its drawer, and
why would he? It was a watch. The watch had little to tell.

author photo of Rushi Vyas

Rushi Vyas is the author of the poetry collection When I Reach for Your Pulse (Four Way Books and Otago University Press, 2023) which was longlisted for the 2024 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry and named a two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series (US). He is also co-author of the collaborative chapbook Between Us, Not Half a Saint with Rajiv Mohabir (Gasher Press, 2021). His poems, reviews, and essays have been published in places such as The Spinoff, Landfall, NZ Poetry ShelfThe Offing, Adroit Journal, Poetry Daily, Asian American Literary Review, Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Born in Toledo, Ohio, he now lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Rushi comments: 'As the first generation of my family born outside of South Asia, raised in the white suburbs of Toledo, Ohio in the United States, and now living as a settler in Aotearoa New Zealand, I often think about the links between culture, desire, and place. In the US, the desire for immigrants to belong often feels conflated with adopting the trappings of capitalism. In this poem, I allowed myself to follow the particular ritualistic life of one of my father's material possessions. Initially, this poem was simply that—a close following of my dad's old watch. As I've read and learned more from scholars such as Vijay Prashad, author of The Karma of Brown Folk, and poets such as Divya Victor who ask us to challenge the ways that the South Asian Hindu diaspora can often be conscripted into supporting settler colonial regimes and antiblackness, I've begun to see this poem as a spark to question what national, cultural, and economic systems teach us to desire, materially and otherwise. What do our cultural and psychic lives lose when we buy into capitalist-racist structures dominated by logics of possession? My father "succeeded" in the settler-colonial state called the US. And yet, that could not save him from death by suicide. The scholar Saidiya Hartman is one of many who reminds us that we can choose which inheritances we want to keep alive and which we want to relinquish. But we have to face our inheritances as a whole in order to begin that work of relinquishment. I think this poem, in the years after writing it, has begun to help me connect how these abstract questions relate to the daily choices I make.'

 

​Poem source details >

 

Links

Rushi Vyas' website

Rushi Vyas' Otago University Press webpage