You have been writing about your brown-ness for a while, but have you written enough? You have written an anthem, hate mails, an ode, an epic and a novel. The novel almost broke your coffee-brown confidence, you went to a pale brown shrink who therapied you on a couch. You dreamt of brown fields, of brown sunflowers, Van Gogh and Gauguin smearing the rivers with brown. He asked you to climb stairs and imagine heaven. You saw his silky brown skin, he insisted he was white. All you could see were shades of brown, from pale to dark. When you were five, angel wings sprout on pale brown and you sulked in a taupe brown corner of the proscenium stage, becoming invisible with your nut-brown skin. You always checked your brown skin tones against others, there were forty five shades of brown, all cackling and sweating racism in a brown-roofed tempo traveller. The sky smeared a teary brown cloud, when they wedged you inside the brownest nook. When the younger boy called you copper, mocha, cedar and cinnamon, you loved those endearing browns that you’d never heard. He smelt cedar wood and clove on your skin, rolled those smells into a joint, puffed brown rings into the air. Your skin turned to ash every time he took a drag. When you woke up to a pale morning, a galactic brown swirled around, brown puffs in the air clung to your coffee-noir hair, and he had become a sepia memory, garnished with a silver spoonful of bitter-brown hate. That’s how you remember your love and perhaps you can write a cinnamon-scented poem to your brown skin smeared on earth, and sometimes, etch out the bleached soles of feet walking over your russet-brown skin.
BABITHA MARINA JUSTIN is an academic, a poet and an artist. Her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in the Journal of Modern Jewish Literature (Taylor and Francis), Marshal Cavendish, Penguin and many national and international journals. Her books are Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (Poetry, 2015), I Cook My Own Feast (Poetry, 2019), salt, pepper and silverlinings: celebrating our grandmothers (an anthology on grandmothers, 2019), From Canons to Trauma (Essays, 2017) and Humour: Texts and Contexts (ed. Essays, 2017).