This week we are featuring another poet, Tanushree Ghosh Dhall, and two of her poems: “The Dark Girl Going Places” and “Honor”. “Dark Girl” tells a story of a girl moving across the world, and how her standard of beauty is drastically altered. “Honor” is a heartbreaking remembrance of trauma and abuse that ends on a moment of hope – the hope of finding true happiness in another despite years of striving to be accepted.
The Dark Girl Going Places
How does it feel to be a dark girl changing countries?
To be attractive in one but not in another?
To have a secret stash of fairness creams
Useless and embarrassing now – but just in case
To be able to wear bright colors all of a sudden?
Knowing no one here will object
How does it feel to see what they see?
To dare and feel beautiful ..
After being admonished so many times?
To browse newsfeeds about outrage in the twitter sphere
against discrimination real and perceived
blackface, Oscars, lip shapes..
While staring at the newspaper the parcels from home came wrapped in
asking for fair brides only
That orange dress if you can remember
cast away not because it was too tight
It was inappropriate still – too bright for a dark girl in India
How does it feel to look for it again
– shuffling through childhood drawers
In hopes of wearing it, in this other land
How does it feel to tell your black friend with pride –
‘You are so much more beautiful’
and suddenly break free, as if an infant saying her first words
In front of your mother-in-law’s disbelieving eyes
Knowing she will never be able to set
standards of beauty free of color
What is it like to be brown at last and not black
And know that there are many shades darker to look up to
I lost my honor a long time back
Standing behind my mother in the crowded line
When I was touched for the first time
By a nice man who then gave me a pop
I lost my honor the second time
When I was slapped for coming home late
In front of my younger brother
Who was just getting ready to leave for the night
I lost my honor the third time
When they threw my mother out of their house
Daughters don’t get shares in property they had said
As I rubbed my scared sleepy eyes
I lost my honor for the umpteenth time
When my mother-in-law’s face dropped
And she had to apologize to the roomful of guests
For her not so fair son’s bride
So what if I lose my honor again today
Holding your hand as you draw me closer
the world disappearing from my sight
as I lock my eyes with a complete stranger?
The poet does well to create verses laced with emotion to recount touching tales of coming-of-age. Join us next week for another post!