I am twelve years old, double-checking my calculations
for proof that you were once my age not that long ago.
Grown-up & age difference mean nothing. They don’t slow
my heart whispering back to me so cute so cute so cute
when I see your music video, eyes unattainable blue sky
peeking through your hair, a blonde sloping cascade
that I do not want to touch. A faraway crush is enough
to give me the same warmth of teen movies I watch with
my brother, to taste the unforgivable sweet of All-American
belonging. I haven’t learned to call it by its other name:
betrayal. How I stare at mirrors trying to convince myself
I am more my father’s white than my mother’s brown skin,
more palatable than the stranger white boys christen me.
But mirrors only return my stubborn color. By some grace,
I do not wish for an easier name. Maybe it’s because yours
sounds like a song, too. Maybe it’s because I already know
the future before it happens. I will need the sound of my name
in my parents’ dulcet duet to be returned after the unbecoming
of every school dance that ends early when the night decides
it’s time to leave, slide into the backseat, & silently weep.
When white girls laugh & explain that I am not the right color
to deserve love. When visiting India, aunties’ acid tongues lashing
at my new American mouth, the no-longer-blood I become.
All this sadness is still unknown to me. I have not lived here long
enough to know that this country will never want me as I am.
In the margins of my notebook, I think that I can find home
if I use the right numbers & signs & a pair of blue skies to reach
your smile, a song meant for someone else.
Sanjana Bijlani‘s writing is rooted in the Indian diaspora and navigating diasporic belonging and cultural memory through poetry, conversation, and mix tapes. Her writing appears in The Offing, The Grief Diaries, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere.