A Space for Women of the World
Mom tells me you married an acceptable Indian girl when you first came to Canada. But you treated her badly till her brothers came to take her back.
You were new in the local clinic. They laughed at your accent and asked why your people wiped their asses with their hands.
You told Mom that the West was like coffee:
blacks on the bottom, browns in the middle, whites on the top.
I was born between your brown hands and Mom’s white belly in the salty layers of a seaside town. You fed me fresh okra, cauliflower, and honey.
Before we left for America, you bought me a doll with black hair as long as mine. You drove for fourteen hours towards a job that promised money.
I re-sang my six nursery songs.
Our new Indian Mama said the first time you picked her up at the airport you told her to call you Raj. You switched lanes in the Lexus, speeding by the semi-trucks.
Now you were a real father because you had found a real mother. She told us to call you Papa-ji and not to make fun of your praying mantis eyebrows.
She made us Indian food. One dinner you told Mama to tell us that there was a new baby in the family. You screamed when I pretended not to understand.
You were angry, but it didn’t matter because you weren’t screaming at me.
I tossed out my hair last night,
rolled it flat
across the pillow, a scroll
of twenty five years woven
over and over my back,
my shoulders, pulling my
skull into its curve, pushing my
neck into these knobs
that he loved to finger.
I held it beneath my nose
and breathed in the dust
of its tail, splitting, dying—
it’s nerves are breaking through
like wires frayed to a golden
bronze. They’ve all touched it,
grabbed it, swung it—get that
hair off your eyes, you whore, I wanna
see you beg me to stop; baby,
don’t you want Mommy
to give you nice little braids so sweet;
just like your grandmother’s, just as
impossible—till I held my scissors,
hardened cold, straight
against its thick throat
and sheared with that rhythm
they wanted so bad, that sickening
sliding, up, down, up, down, inside
my body, inside my mind
till it all fell loose beneath my hands.
Natasha Sharma is a second generation South Asian American who writes about the traumas and ecstasies of living in the Midwest. Her work can be viewed in The Hartskill Review. She holds an M.A. from Miami University of Ohio in English and is working on her first chapbook.