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Mehrish, Divya, Phonetic


Divya Mehrish
Age: 17, Grade: 12

School Name: Spence School, New York, NY
Educator: Sara Beasley

Category: Poetry


There are oceans in my name,
Sicilian vineyards, mangoes rotting on red
sand in summer. Mowgli has become
my father. He eats blueberries now, 
popping pearls, wiping with linen napkins. 
When I was born my father named me—
Divya—two syllables of divinity.
English melts between my mother’s
lips: she pronounces the “Ch” 
in Chicago like the beginning of Chihuahua. 
I swore to never go to college in a city 
she couldn’t fit in her mouth.
I am seventeen and still
she adds a third syllable
when she calls me for dinner:
I have lost myself in 
this inflection
of tongues. 
A decade ago, when Cousin Vijayalakshmi 
asked me my name, I added the third syllable—
I had been called for dinner 2,555 times.
My cousin told me I was saying it wrong, then
showed me how to balance 
tongue on palate, how to pulverize 
mother’s love with jaw. 
Seventeen and still
I don’t know my name
But I have a mother who pricks
her fingers as she tries to mend
the uneven stitches between India and 
Italy. South Asia
is an awkward ball for a boot.