my sister thinks
the most mysterious four-letter word
is not love.
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
a non-resident poet
making shelters out of words and not
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
my sister’s soul and her skin
into a satirical equation
world’s got no space
for words in different colours
for girls in different colours
writing, creating, loving and birthing
too much spice.
too much spice in her food
too much spice on her tongue
too much spice in that woman
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
it’s a kind of stockholm syndrome
making poets out of immigrants
like my sister.
and what are we