To Look Like My Mother By Christina Lewis

I remember your eyes like juniper

and mint leaves, the eyes you said held me when I was just a twinkle
in your mind. Narrowing at the girl

who refused to sit on my bed
because I was too dark, and brown
paint stained. The first moment I remember looking up at you,

your hair brushed like honey, curling
like the corks you collected from wine
bottles. Just long enough to shield my seven year old face from the girls who whispered
behind their porcelain fingers, and your friends

who asked in the supermarket
if I came from a mission trip in Guatemala.
I looked up at your skin,
rosy from the camellias that blossomed under your cheeks.

Stretched over your bones and brushed the color
of rice my grandfather harvested with hands
like mine, fifteen thousand miles away from where we lived. You were white in the places

it mattered. I wanted to take magic
marker to my irises and scribble ink that matched pine needles and Atlantic sea foam, to twist

my hair like the bottle caps that swiveled onto and sealed glass Coke bottles too expensive to buy in India. I wanted to look like you and that girl, to snatch the pale foundation from your bathroom counter

and rub it into the creases of my eyelids and the folds of my knees that tanned too easily, never turning cherry. I wanted to burn like you. Longed for the sun to touch me, unafraid.

 

I am different because I am an Indian-American. Although sometimes it feels difficult to embrace my heritage and my skin color, I honor my difference by acknowledging that my skin color displays my lineage: a family tree that I should be proud of. —Christina Lewis, RBC Flaunt It Award finalist

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