Rita Mookerjee


Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Iowa State University. Her poetry is featured in Juked, Cosmonauts Avenue, New Orleans Review, Sinister Wisdom, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. She is the author of the chapbook Becoming the Bronze Idol (Bone & Ink Press, 2019). She is the Assistant Poetry Editor of Split Lip Magazine and a poetry staff reader for [PANK].

Rooh Afzah

I tore a rose from its perch and thumbed its velvet with plans to watch its corpse unravel on a table. I readied myself for the cold trace of the florist’s. Instead, I smelled Rooh Afzah, that syrup my dad stirred into iced milk in the summer, turning the banal into something pink and singular in the smallest juice glass which made the drink sacred. I never drink milk now. No stores in this city sell Rooh Afzah, and most days, I can’t even find a bouquet of real roses, the kind I smelled in Mumbai that made me want to suck the buds and press the petals to my wrists to make their scent my own. I have three dozen perfumes, and none of them get it right. I’ve learned to expect nothing of shrubs, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Those roses are sterile, scrubbed of wildness, stand-ins for the real thing which is why, just outside my window, I am shocked to find that honeyed scent; to be 13 again, tasting Rooh Afzah on the back of a stirring spoon.

Like many, I study and enjoy food, but I am also interested in the mouth and its role in poetry. There’s a deliciousness in the utterance of certain words, and I wanted to showcase that here.