Poems by
Mariyam Raza Haider

My skin. The colour of wheat.

a poem by Mariyam Raza Haider

She does not look like you,
Perhaps after her father?
Said people, looking at my fair mother.

And my complexion.
I heard the first time, a colour existed.
Called wheat, by most. Less fair, by few.

Carrying a hint of compensation.
For at least, I was not categorically brown.
I was in the middle.

Like the mixture of sky and earth.
Fair enough to not be too worried about.
Dark though, not resembling a ‘Muslim girl’.

With milky skin and kohl eyes.
And a small ringlet pierced in the nose.
Fairly familiar a stereotype, I’d say?

As a child, I did not care for my colour.
As a teenager, I began scrubbing it away.
Anointing my skin with herbs and remedies.

Protecting it from sun and taunted vagaries.
My skin, the colour of wheat, they’d say.
Too much heat trapped under her skin.

Too much time she spent cycling.
Rub raw milk with honey.
Or ground turmeric and mix with her pigment.
You’ll have porcelain skin in no time.

I tried and tried I did.
Until I grew tired of fitting in.
To the colour the society wanted.
Not to the colour of my skin.

One day, I awoke to the sun’s rays.
Grazing through my arms and bones within.
Gentle shadow of each hair, illuminating the supple layer.

Like a wheat field husking in a winter evening.
That sun shown upon my body, and my soul residing in.
I no longer wanted to be milk. Only wheat, outside and within.

A mix of sky and the earth.
And all the life in between.
Not a caricature of my mother’s body.
But a reflection of her defiant being.

I am me. The skin, the mind and the body.