Over the past couple years, I’ve written and published two poetry books. I focus on self love a lot, especially to those who may not be represented in mainstream media. I’ve chosen to share some poetry written for and about brown girls.

dark reddish, brown skin                       hair that won’t hold a curl
girls who r born with                              hair that holds too many curls
sepia skin                                              hair that won’t hold any hair do
girls who r born with                              without a million
sunburnt skin                                         and one
girls who r born with                              slides
sun kissed skin                                      hair that’s greasy
the colour of                                          smells like coconut oil
bournvita, we                                         before it got trendy
grew up drinking                                    hair that’s lush
a tumbler of chai                                    and lavish
with not too much milk                           with lots of (unspoken?) thoughts
in it                                                         underneath
skin with constellations                          we chopped off our braids
stars, black holes, & craters                   or kept them intact
burden in                                                tried a new colour
deep (knock off designer?) eye bags     or clung to the fact
no concealer in the right shade that       black hair doesn’t bleach well!
to hide                                                    i know this for a fact
yesterday’s kajal                                    we glow in the turmeric sun
blending a little too well                         and shimmer radiance in the moon
into under eye circles                             the scabs on our middle fingers
dark gums & white teeth                        from gripping our pencils
abnormally large ear piercings?             too tightly
those sterling silver stubs                      working hard
would almost slip right out                     shines bright light too

bruises, ashy knees                               standards while insinuating that
walking dusty strong bare feet               my race isn’t attractive-
crocodile skin elbow                              who’s worse
“does ur house smell like curry”            u, for saying my homemade lunch
everywhere we go                                 smells bad
what’s worse                                         or the child me,
“u r so exotic”                                        for caring
-objectifying me-                                   what’s worse
or saying                                               that we don’t stand together
“ur pretty for a brown girl”                     or the colourism, whatever
-comparing me to eurocentric               interracial thing you’re thinking

love poem to brown girls

brown girls take heartbreak in stride
“never cried about it”
but stay up alone in their rooms
tossing & turning all night
heavy sighs from heavy hearts
that are bursting on fire
burning images of their eyes
they don’t know
how hard it is
to morally/religiously(?)/guilt-freely/what-will-my-parents-my-neighbours-my-dead-ancestors
say to me?
be with them
that’s why if we tell those people
they say “see, that’s what we told u”
not to trust them
get up, move on
keep studying, harder, nothing’s wrong
run faster & faster
talk louder & faster
think smarter & faster
get over it faster
send it up in smoke in silence
dress better, drink water
false bursts of endorphins
keeping us going
till the night
when we can’t sleep
so we write
till the night
is over


a few years ago                                         a true hero.
i went to Costa Rica                                   saving me from my skin
i saw some birds                                        “your dress is so exotic
some bugs                                                  can i wear it on my date?”
some flowers                                              “those forehead gems r so exotic,
unusual                                                       can i have some for this rave?”
colors                                                           u made fun of holi
peculiar                                                       but now have color run in san jose
sounds                                                         u want the pretty dresses,
alluring                                                         music, “henna tattoos”
scents                                                          naan bread & butter chicken
exotic                                                           when u claim to love indian food
exotic like you called                                    but u make fun of me
my accent when i was young                       when i talk to my parents
exotic was the word you used                      ask me if my house smells
to describe my mother tongue                      like curry
“exotic” was your quasi polite way                if i’m going to be
of describing                                                  a doctor, engineer, or lawyer
my homemade lunch                                     tell me
but I saw how your nose wrinkled                 “don’t go in the sun
as u scooted slightly away                             you’ll become more black!”
“exotic” is what you whispered                      and laugh
with your hands covering your mouths          because it’s just a joke
when u asked me if i just tanned too much    right?
and i said i was always this color                   ask me why i would ever visit india
i was too “exotic”, you said                             isn’t it dirty?
as to why I couldn’t be in ur club                    isn’t it poor?
you were sure I was very                               “aren’t u scared you’ll get raped?”
“interesting”                                                    “wasn’t slumdog millionaire, like,
but not sure how well I’d                                 a documentary about india?”
belong                                                             u want everything good
“you’re so beautiful,”                                       from my country and my culture
i almost smile                                                  but ur thoughts r still bad
but I keep reading ur message                       exotic is what u say
expecting the inevitable line:                          because u don’t understand
“some guys don’t like brown girls                   u think it’s a compliment
but I do. white girls are boring,                       but it means outlandish
not exotic like u.”                                            and weird
like i’m supposed to                                        what’s weird is that u think this
thank you?                                                      tho we both live in the same state
feel grateful that u                                          and the only thing that’s exotic?
like me?                                                          is the idea of being friends with u.

a spoken word about fetishisation and cultural appropriation

when you’re a little indian kid, ur classmates make fun of your lunch that “looks weird” and “smells weird” and “why don’t u eat meat?” when you’re a little indian kid, u mix up ur “v’s’ and “w’s,” and “weather” is “vether” & “violin” is “wiolin.” “ear” becomes “year” and ur teacher tells you to stop putting unnecessary “u’s” in ur papers, but to u, “colour” & “color” r two different words. actually, “color” just looks wrong. u don’t play parcheesi, u play ludo, and u play it differently, but everyone says it’s wrong. they say the american way is right, and that doesn’t make sense to u, because it’s just a game, but there’s more of them than u, and u can’t isolate everyone. some girls say u can’t play with them because ur brown, like that’s a bad thing, and u feel like maybe it’s a bad thing, but it’s confusing because these same girls talk about tanning & which tanning lotion to use & sun in. all the dolls r white and the dolls that have darker skin are ugly, carelessly made, & no one wants to buy them, & none of them look like u. sometimes u say “fust” instead of “first,” and over the years, that changes, and when u go back to india, and u say “first” instead of “fust,” they laugh at ur american accent & the hard “r.” girls glare, men leer, people say ur not a real indian. but ur also not american.

on belonging to two places, or rather, not belonging

You can find the book these pieces are from here!

Header art by me.