Of all the wondrous colours Spilled and poured There’s none with as many shades, As many shades as brown. Brown, the colour of this land’s first born Born from a land so brown Leached and bleached with blood so red Till white from the brown was born. But brown being brown, And being all around Seeped and trickled, Drip by drip, wave by wave. Washed up these shores Before and after walls Braving depths Scaling heights and all Brown, we come In shades and hues Hot to warm to tepid Until the day we’re all gray. A cup of hot chocolate In a white porcelain mug Cocooned in my hands A bud of brown wrapped in brown. Like an earthen jar Its empty hands Its usefulness To carry what others won’t hold. An exposed cinnamon back bent over In the fields by the freeway A tired arm rubbed across A sweaty and grimy forehead. Brown, the colour of questions My daughter has on her mind when She returns from school A brown building filled with white. Is it what her own eyes see? I ask her Or words her ears have heard? Hushed whispers across the table? Or yelled out loud by the swings? For her friends all Fair and light-eyed Bless them, they haven’t learnt To tell brown from white It’s just a colour, I tell her A magical one for sure For so many browns within our house So much to contrast and compare Her beautiful brown face in the looking glass Sweet as jaggery with a hint of toffee Perpetual tease, her older brother These days, honey with a bite of ginger Brown, I say Is the yummiest colour Of maple and pancakes Waffles and hashbrown I want my eggs Fried brown and crisp And bread toasted To a crunchy sound The go between The merger The happy compromise Between dark and light I have to agree, every once in a while Brown does invite A sight that’s near And a mind that’s narrow I do admit I’ve gone into fight or flight My face all hot My fists squeezed tight But brown doesn’t see red You see, it was naturalized This being a right That might have been withheld All the colours brush-stroking my life Deepening and enriching The palate I brought with myself A loom strung with brown, black and white A pattern all unique Beholding the pour of milk In a cup of Arabica A swirl of brown and white My buckwheat fingers Pressing down a creamy shoulder Our brown and white heads Bent together, laughing over a shared joke We play a game Taking turns to go: -A crusty loaf of bread, -Sticky, sweet caramel -My sandalwood rosary -The cedar plank of the garden swing -Fingers writing codes -Palms scrubbing floors -Sable-hair paint brushes -Pecan, almonds, chestnuts -This writing table-that dining chair -Pencil, palate, easel -Piano, guitar, cello -Hands in dishwater -Hands behind the wheel -Cinnamon cookie dough -Tangy tamarind pulp -Bird house hanging on the Oak -A fragrant cup of chai -Muddy puddles to splash and sail paper boats Splash and sail? Curling out her pink lower lip Blackmail in her starry, vanilla bean eyes Till I roll mine and turn on the faucet. Two brown mermaids In white bubbly water Jets shooting fizz Our arms entwining, fingers linked Wheat with hazel Our hands swimming like fish in sea foam I Pull her in close Her beats playing next to mine An olive cheek resting On my sun-kissed collar-bone Rays breaking in through the window Bathing bronze in gold.
KANWAR SONALI JOLLY-WADHWA is a writer and poet. She writes in English, Hindi and Punjabi with published poetry collections in all three languages. She has published a collection of essays, “Gender: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Her Doctoral thesis, “Women Writing Women’s Worlds” is currently under publication. A wife and mother living in California, she moved from India to San Francisco 25 years ago. She often writes about the intersection of her Indian and American lives.