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,
the crone.
        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.
                    Their reminders
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.                                 

Cover art: “Leaf Me Alone” by Robin Young

Moni Brar

Moni Brar (she/her) was born in rural India and now gratefully divides her time between the unceded territories of Treaty 7 and Metis Nation Region 3 (Calgary) and Syilx Okanagan Nation (Oliver). She has multiple nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize and was the winner of the 2022 Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal and the 2022 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award. She has received writing awards and honours from PRISM international, Room, Arc, The Ex-Puritan, and Subnivean. Her work appears in Best Canadian Poetry, The Literary Review of Canada, Passages North, and Hobart.