Where Are you From?

I’m a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I’m a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I’m a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary living and loving.  I blog at Irresistible Revolution.

inspired by the poems“Clone” by the amazing Vanessa Shanti Fernando, and  ‘Where are you From” by Harshbrowns 

Questions of origin,

Stitched into my skin, woven
                    into my dreams.
In Dubai where I grew up
everyone was from somewhere
India, Sudan, Sri Lanka
We came from histories
not easily discarded
when pale-skinned Emiratis
joined white westerners
in spitting on us.
A Sri Lankan woman raped by her employer
jumps from a window
the shattering of her bones swallowed
in city rush glitter
A Filipina stabs her would-be-rapist employer
who’s kept her passport under lock and key
to prevent escape.
In classrooms teacher after teacher
questions me
as I stand pinioned by a dozen curious eyes
branded “non-Muslim”
What do you believe?
How do you pray?

Where am I from?
Is a poem I’ve begun
and abandoned 
and begun
and returned to because
these cartographies live
inside my skin, under my tongue
and some journeys you only have the strength
to make once.
Where am I from?
Ceylon, Serendib, Cinnamon Isle
hung on the Indian Ocean
a teardrop earring
I would know its shape in my dreams,
my heart can guide my hands to trace it
like a lover’s face
Lanka Matha, torn with war
beautiful as the first garden
Outside Sunmart, 10:00 pm, Minnesota
Sitting in a white friend’s car I listen
“And the bombing continues…
Sri Lanka’s northern territories
crisis, genocide, refugee camps…”
My heart clenches and bleeds,
tears in my throat I
can’t explain
to those who’ve never
watched from an airplane window
an island coast growing smaller
then lost
not knowing when you can return.
A teardrop shape
familiar as my own heart
Lanka matha
Namo matha
Where am I from?
You ask like you have a right to know.
As if I should unfold these storied maps
from the pages of my heart
just for you.
How do you love nations
when no flags are waving?
Without the certainty of a thousand Hollywood heroes
spinning grand white myths
Do you know?
Let me tell you
of loving a land so
My tongue thirsts for the taste of its water
Across a thousand miles
and too many years
Where am I from?
My dreams run leaping 
into the arms of the Arabian Sea
its foaming laughter and wild-blue wind
I awake with salty yearning lips
and see only a frost-latticed window.
The crush of loneliness around my heart,
it would stop your breath
You who’ve never had to venture
too far from the horizon of safety
following dreams in spite of a naysaying world
the weight and love of a people behind you
pushing you forward, holding you firm,
reminding you why you left
and why you will return.
Where am I from?
Minnesota fall bright green red gold.
we hold a banner together
its sprawling words soar in my heart
“Pro-choice. Trust Women”
stealing glances I see the bracelet on his wrist
red, gold, green
Colours of the Mexican flag
We fall in love through
the soft rains of autumn
across stories of belonging
bloodlines and crisscrossed histories
in a land where neither of us
will truly belong
Already I know
these prairie colours rolling outward
almost touching a cloud-ribboned sky,
these evenings blue with snow
will tug at my heart
someday, somewhere else I
must go
Can the limits of your heart
be tested
across three continents
endless ocean miles
and stay open to love,
more love?
Where am I from?
You don’t have time
or capacity
for the real answer.
You want a neat name
a clear label
so you can categorize and rationalize
excuse the systems you partake in
that mark us
First World, Third World
American, foreigner
You don’t have time or ears
for all the stories
we could tell
my mothers
my sisters
my people
You don’t really want to know
Born there, lived here
loved always
hearts stamped with histories
you cannot begin to understand.
Where am I from?
Why don’t you turn it on yourself?
Where are YOU from?
what do you know of
the history you were born from?
stop demanding
answers you are not
ready to hear.
I come from many places
I come from many people
Where I’m from
is where I was always meant to be.
where are you from?
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