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Vandana Khanna

American Horror

Long before Atticus

and Scout, Boo

and the south,

it was Gregory Peck

who introduced me

to horror. While the city

cooled its hiss and spite

on the backs of vegetable

vendors, we'd spend

our summers in Delhi

sweating out the days

in front of the color t.v.,

watching horror movies—

our only antidote for

the flash and hustle

of Hindi musicals.

We were the first

in the neighborhood

to see the real color

of fear—the red stab

of blood sliced across

the screen, the monster's

hue come to life in true

green. It proved how far

my grandfather had come

from his boyhood

of maharajahs

and the British,

far from the world

of black-and-white,

world wrung free

of color. We'd do

anything for a shiver

on those hot days—

shadows that bent corners

into mystery, endings

that left us thirsty

for something

that wasn't sweet.


Vandana Khanna's work has appeared in Indiana Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Crazyhorse among others. Her first collection of poetry won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2001.

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