You inform your friends that
they have misinterpreted your presence.
You are neither immigrant nor alien.
Definitely not heathen
as they feel compelled to call you.
You are merely part of multiple worlds.
You want to assure them
that the misunderstanding
is not their fault: you chose
to remain silent for too long.
Now the cat has freed your tongue.
You will speak and choose
to no longer hold the peace.
You hear he is in prison. Iqbal,
the warrior-saint with the whitest
of turbans, the loudest
proclamations of faith
echoing off the gurdwara walls.
Everyone is surprised to learn
he has murdered his wife.
But not you.
You remember the dirtiest of smiles
lurking behind his flowing beard.
You had a suspicion
he feasted on boys
who longed to become men.
Susan says she can’t bear the amount
of green in Nova Scotia. How she’s flooded by the layers
of green upon green.
You tell her you long to escape the
opposite: the deadness
of brown prairies, the inhospitable
brown upon brown, depleted
of life, like you.
You want to tell her that green
is life, but instead compliment her on her dress.
You study the female archetypes
and painstakingly flesh them out
in your mind.
You want to inhabit each:
the mother, the virgin, the whore,
You can’t admit, won’t admit,
which ones are easiest
to slide into.
Every time Jenn mentions she’s gluten- sensitive, your Punjabi ancestors
tap you on the shoulder
to remind you
that you come from the breadbasket
of India, that they subsisted on wheat
and little else.
leave the taste of stale bread
in your mouth for days.
Keeping up with
cultural appropriators is hard work.
You’re torn between investing
your anger into those
who swoon in awe over cathedrals
and monuments built by stolen labour,
or the masses profiting from
chai facial scrubs,
butter chicken linguine,
and Shiva tattoos.
You know what it is to hate your own.
To pour venom on that
which is most like you.
How with childish
carelessness, you called them FOBs
and carefully placed a fabricated
distance between You and Them. Now, you can admit
it was because you wanted to become
something you will never be, no longer
want to be. That you were on
the wrong side of the line.
That in the end, each of us is the line.