Heer CheemaOctober 6, 2016Human DignityPoetry

Discomfort seeps between this second layer and I,
Foreign in its ways, and formidable in the way it becomes me.
I scrub to wipe away the blasphemy
That is the brown curdled in my veins,
My vigorous movements grit out a warning:
Virulent melanin, I will overcome you!
But this color is not so easily washed off,
Resistant as plastic.
Plastic that stretches stereotypes across my skin,
Plastering lies on my forehead and eyes,
A suffocating hat on the dome of my head,
So that I may be as thoughtless and shortsighted as you wish.

I cut the plastic into strips
Fashion myself a jacket,
It flashes leather texture in certain lights
On the doorstep
In the guest loo
Now in my bedroom
And I hug it closer, the warm leather almost familiar.
It seems darker when I stand next to you, and I realize it suits me
This dark color
Crinkled in corners where I have sat too long — too complacent.

You reduced me.
You said “Pakistanian” and I said “Pakistani,”
The “an” and the “I” continents of stubborn ignorance that divide us
These different sounds a foundation of mockery
That buries my vast culture,
The pain of a people torn across boundaries
A people born from a struggle of identity, and you have the gall to mock mine.

Racism tainted your breath
I felt it linger in the air
And coagulate around my accent, my body
And you spared nothing, for all of me was too different
So different that you, dear Normality, held the gavel
And passed a sentence shutting the valves before I could find my way home.
So, let us add
Your disdain,
Your dismissal,
Your tongue bending, marching lines of hate to hover in the air
Letting them resound, and they still do.
They ring in time with my typing hands
They ring in time, as I like your posts where you embrace “liberalism”
But my reduction was an addition of your destructive behavior.
It is a reduction you can never redact,
So, forgive me, your liberalism is insignificant in the face of my liberation
Because it happened in spite of you.

Heer Cheema is a student at Lahore Grammar School, and she is currently in the 12th grade. She enjoys reading and writing poetry. Her favorite poets include A.E. Houseman and Vikram Seth.