Mental Colonialism / A Promise of Promise / Clipped Wings

[poetry]

Mental Colonialism

You had taken up roots in my ancestors’ souls,

burning white roots of hate into our

rich brown skin. Passed down, wrapped firm

around the necks of our dark-haired babies,

their screams echoed and grew into an aversion

to their own reflection. Cut in half, a coconut, you scooped

out the sweet pearly crescents inside and threw the shells

at us with your backs turned as you left.

Carting away our spices, our heavenly thick senses

that my Amma would fold into the foods I’m not

ashamed of anymore. Yet you made me feel

like an anomaly, like the very things you stole

from us, the grains you stockpiled as we starved,

was like the white fabric of this world was

stained with turmeric, like that was revolting instead of

the golden touch. Then you wrote out our triumphant histories

of Kanchipuram silks and masala chai and sea trade empires;

you blotted out our rhythmic, dancing languages;

compelled me to trade my mother tongue for your

brutish beating one, so that I wouldn’t have an accent;

and cut my ancestors’ tongues out of their throats,

when they fought for me like my parents did, yet I speak

your language and not theirs. You told my brothers

they were without mettle, told my sisters they

were monstrous, told us our skin was too dark,

our glorious melanin could protect us from the sun,

but not from your erroneous ideas of true beauty,

that you used to water the trees our youth, that I

grew up with, playing among its branches, grabbing

golden mangos bursting with nectar but painted

with your poisons, your conservatism, your hatred,

your fears, before calling us primitive and backward.

You tortured our sacred lands and made a mockery

of our culture. And one day when my body is burned

on the river bed, only then will the choking parasite

roots that have burrowed into my heart, be

burned away as well. And so, I fight, so that with every

pottu placed on each daughter or son after me,

your poisonous vines will bind them no more.


A Promise of Promise

 

To be told I was born of promise

stolen away too young, staring

into my flames. A pyre of ability

roaring softly in the wind.

And I’d been a little seed,

tucked inside her all she’d need

a fleeting gust to save away

the squandered dreams

and set her ship on sail.

Battered bruised her hull’d

carry on, too late for the rats

to chew her ropes free.

A story too great for I to hear,

this grandiose plank cannot

float her in this sea. But lovely

on the ears and heart to perceive

such a vision flourishing. These

rays beyond death could not trouble

me, and still to this I prove

how sorry they all would be.


Clipped Wings

 

I often wonder of the women before me,

birds with their wings clipped in glinting

cages. Yet they struggled and thrashed against

the bars, beating their wings broken until

they could slip between the polished metal

or bent the bars and escaped. Some tamed

the vines that grew beneath them to twist and

enrapture the cage and shape it to their like.

Expectations to idly croon out their melodic

voices and prune their shiny coats with dark

beaks were broken. Some plucked out their

own feathers—given quills they would have taken

over—and painted illustrious epics with their blood.

Certain ravens sharpened their natural wits,

recognized by few, to a jagged point and found

the blinding key, only to be drowned. Forming

roosting communities, broken, torn apart,

fighting on the frontline for injustice of all,

they persisted. Flocks were cut apart, daughters

indoctrinated to disbelief themselves, sold

from father to husband, yet they spread their

wings.

Mother birds raised their chicks, sold their

iridescent feathers, their keys to flight, for

their daughters. They forced apart the bars and

with each generation a few more birds could test

their wings for flight. All the world whispered

seeds of doubt. too fragile. made to be lesser.

Nonetheless they molted their set of clipped wings

and took off into the sky. Some were shot down.

Some survived, flying gloriously through the sky.

I often wonder of the women before me,

what if they were encouraged to soar?

What farther heights could we reach?

if half our wings were

not caged away.

Harsha Venkataraman is a high school student from Austin, TX. She has written for the teen magazine Adolescent Access. Her work can be found in Kealing’s Inkblot Literary Magazine and the LASA Composer.