for my sister

my sister thinks

the most mysterious four-letter word

is not love.

it’s home.

she writes poems in the back of her engineering class

learning how to build bridges back

to the place that gave her her skin and passport

but never a home.

 

she’s a non-resident

patriot now

a non-resident poet

making shelters out of words and not

area codes.

poetry is the only country

she could ever truly belong to.

 

the critics behind their white screens

like to reduce her poetry

into short little recipes

with too much spice like:

1 immigrant narrative +

1 broken mother tongue

and a dash of rosewater, mangoes, turmeric.

they break girls and relationships and politics

into formulas now they think

they’ll distil

my sister’s soul and her skin

into a satirical equation

 

like this

world’s got no space

for words in different colours

for girls in different colours

writing, creating, loving and birthing

however imperfect

 

they say

too much spice.

too much spice in her food

too much spice on her tongue

too much spice in that woman

 

but

her body of work

is still a body

like any other’s –

flawed. and not for everyone.

 

still worthy of recognition

now you can find my sister

in your africana studies class

in the writers of colour section at the local bookshop

you can find my sister on instagram

recarving the maps

of her identity like a cartographer

of the self

 

my sister is from somalia

my sister is from punjab

my sister is from south africa and nigeria,

palestine and pakistan.

 

for years she has yearned

to wring the colour from her skin

and use it as ink

to pen her own narrative.

one that is not colonised

or claimed or corroded

by anyone or anything but herself.

 

let her develop

like the nations her parents left

never got the chance to.

those nations still wearing “third world” yokes around their necks

media saying they need to progress

do you remember how

the white man came and took the steering wheel away from them?

led the cars of their futures into accidents

put the gear in reverse then called them backward

they said “be grateful for this pain

we are making you better

we are making you like us”

so the country of my sister’s birth continues

 

pouring bleach like milk

to whiten their coffee

-coloured women

it’s a kind of stockholm syndrome

making poets out of immigrants

like my sister.

 

and what are we

saying?

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