by Alok Vaid-Menon
my father comes to stay with me in my
trendy loft apartment in cape town, south africa:
that city where i spend my tuesdays half-time
at that coffee shop on wale street — the one where the
fair trade tea and i are the only vessels
of brown in the building.
the tables have turned:
this is the first time my father is staying
in a home i have paid for with my own dollar,
and delusion. (i remind him of this, frequently)
he tells me that if he had half of my confidence when
he was my age he would have settled in a place like
i have begun to tell you everything:
like how i will
wear your old shirts, three-o-clock shadow, scowl, hunched
but i will never be your ‘son,’
never like your country-western novels, or women, or
belief in the “democratic process”
but there are some things i cannot say,
so i will make you a cup of chai
the way we showed affection when i was a kid
magicians: no hands, no words,
just a sip of hot chocolate,
that warm feeling in our chests,
take a bag of Earl Grey from the shelf
throw it across a boiling ocean:
see what happens:
watch its colour spread out of it into the water,
we have lost the language our names grew from,
stir a little further:
i forgot to celebrate indian independence day last week
three spoons of sugar:
what do you think of the white men I bring home to meet you?
soy milk till it is less dark:
when you see them embrace me do i look lighter to you?
(are we brave? / are you proud?)
and here is your tea,
and here are my palms,
and here are my burns
and here is my new life
and what i mean to say is
i am not brave, is this mug
sometimes feels like a ship
and i don’t know what i’m escaping from
and is this a fair trade? what have i lost?
being packaged and thrown across the world
losing my flavour with every sip?
but i can still taste yours in the daal you made
for dinner tonight,
that dish i spit out when i was younger (i’m sorry)
but now i want to (re)learn the recipe,
want to (re)learn our language,
want to (re)member what it feels like to go to temple
and feel something,
want to understand the bravery of the spices
you throw into your pan, the ones that
refuse to lose their dignity.
so do not lose your dignity:
we are two barrels of tea:
floating around a boiling ocean,
looking for tongues to make us
feel worth worthy again,
and this is not bravery,
this is not nostalgia,
this is that warmth in our chests,
this is that brown on our skins,
this is that netting around our leaves,
do not let them all escape.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers.
Please do not republish anything from this site without express written
permission from BGD. Yes, linking to this post on Facebook and Twitter or elsewhere is okay.
Alok Vaid-Menon is a South Asian artivist who has performed & organized with queer movements around the world. They are committed to building radical queer movements and bodies that resist white supremacy and imperialism and like making art that thinks about these, and other what ifs. You can read some of their work atreturnthegayze.tumblr.com andqueerlibido.tumblr.com.
SUPPORT Black Girl Dangerous and help amplify the voices of queer and trans* people of color!
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It just WON the Lambda Literary Award!
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook