if I were to spread my life out at my feet,
like the faded persian rug at my grandmother’s house.
it would look nothing like a persian rug.
just a mess of hues and rough edges.
weavers always make sure to include one flaw in their rugs.
because they believe that nothing is perfect, only god.
so they skip a stitch, whisper a prayer and go about their days.
the weaver of my life has included many flaws. only flaws.
my life is not a persian rug.
if I were to lay on the ground all that has ever happened to me,
flick my wrist and turn it into a wave of light.
into a spectrum of colour.
my life would appear as a strange swirl of tints and shades.
would you like to take my hand and watch them blend together?
(we cannot traverse this wave from beginning to end, we must go where the light takes us)
yesterday was purple.
like the edge of some - but not all - galaxies.
not the galaxies I have seen, only those I have heard about.
I ‘tripped’ and fractured the same rib I had fractured one, two, three, four times.
gardens of bruises bloom and blossom across my skin.
violets and lilacs and lavender.
they are beautiful but they are wilting.
turning a pale shade of yellow around the edges.
yellow like the sun that promised to watch over me,
but disappeared when things got hard, when things got difficult.
yellow, my favourite colour.
yellow like empty promises and empty melodies,
both of which are the most obvious kind of fickle,
though loud enough to make up for it.
and I insist on falling in love with lies and songs anyway.
some lies are blue and some songs are blue.
my favourite song is blue.
my favourite song is the sound of his voice.
it sounds like a clear lake in a faraway country where everyday is summer.
do you know what else is blue?
yes, some days it is the sky.
but most days it is the vein in my father’s forehead
that turns dark blue and pulses when he is angry.
it is the sound of my heartbeat on a cold day:
blue, blue, blue.
it is the colour I imagine my bones to be.
instead of strangely shaped calcifications,
inside of me are hundreds of blue ribbons.
206 ribbons to be exact.
well, 205 ribbons after I shattered the smaller bone in my left foot.
how did I shatter a ribbon? you will never know.
so many, many things are blue.
my mother’s favourite floral dress.
my lips in winter.
my fingers when I hold them too tightly and stop the blood flow.
that red, red blood.
so dark that clasped in my palms under the moonlight it looks almost black.
but it is not black, it is red.
do you know that my name means red?
my parents could not bring themselves to name me when I was born.
so for a short while, I was a poem.
an untitled poem.
one day they swaddled me and left me in a ray of sunlight.
they watched my cheeks turn red,
and decided to call me just that: red.
my name sounds full and lovely.
it will melt on your tongue like spun sugar.
do not be fooled - it means almost nothing.
red is the colour of the liquid that travelled out of my stomach
and up my throat once I had emptied my body of bile.
it smelled like blood and it tasted like blood.
so it must have been blood.
I passed out and woke up in a river of it.
red blood running down my wrists and turning the water crimson.
red blood flowing between my legs.
my mother once told me that god cursed women with menstruation
because it was eve who led adam astray.
I do not believe her.
why would god punish daughters for the sin of their mother?
it seems that my mother is being punished for my sins,
not the other way around.
and my sins are black.
so is my heart -
that is what my mother says when I am cruel.
I am not always cruel.
only when the starless sky melds with my soul.
only when the smoke engulfs my organs.
I am forced to expel soot from my lungs.
and then whole lumps of coal fall from between my lips.
but not diamonds. never diamonds.
black, the ink that stains pages and pages with my words,
the ink that stains my fingertips and the corners of my mouth.
my eyes turn black in dim light.
not in a mystical way, in a harsh way,
like obsidian or tar or hot rubber.
but in the sunshine, my eyes are brown.
my eyes are molten cinnamon,
they are pools of honey,
they are warm beach sand.
dry blood is brown.
I once wrote a note in blood I had stolen from the veins in my wrists.
courage urged me to take some blood,
but disappeared before I could siphon all of it.
so I lay there and watched the words fade to brown.
after that day I promised to never summon courage again.
my skin is brown.
a shade between olive and wicker which no one has bothered to give a name to.
the brown is starting to disappear.
and everyday a new fleck of white appears.
white, the tips of my nails that I use to dig into soft flesh.
white, the colour that my bones actually are.
white, the men who invaded the countries to which I belong.
can I belong to two countries at once?
can I keep two national anthems balanced in my lungs?
I pledge allegiance to rooibos tea,
I pledge allegiance to hot chai
white, the colour we are born into.
the colour the dead are shrouded in.
soft clouds are white.
the ones that are too small to obscure the sun.
but the rain clouds are grey.
the night clouds are grey.
my grandfather’s right eye is grey. his left eye works just fine.
grey, the colour that my hands turn when I forget them in the water.
I like them better that way.
cold and numb, lifeless.
the sky turns grey right before it sobs.
I wish that I could too.
before I cry my cheeks turn pink.
not pink like beautiful pale roses,
or the streaks on the horizon at sunrise.
not pink like cherry blossoms.
a hideous shade of pink.
(the only hideous shade of pink)
my tongue is pink, and it is forked like the tongue of a snake.
but it is split into four, not two.
so perhaps it is not like the tongue of a snake,
but the tongues of two snakes.
each segment for a language.
the first and biggest for english -
the language I was raised on,
in which I speak, think, breathe.
the language in which I write.
the words are lovely but they are empty little hollows.
the second for arabic-
the language closest to godliness.
a harsh, jagged language
that sounds like rocks falling down the side of a mountain.
guttural and meaningful, straight from the dark part of the throat.
the third for afrikaans -
the strange and bitter language.
when I squeeze the words into my mouth,
it cannot seem to stay shut.
and the last and smallest for urdu -
the language of my forefathers, my motherland.
my lips are clumsy in the face of foreign syllables which should not be foreign at all.
but I am nurturing the words.
I believe that they will grow to love me.
pink, watermelon slices in the spring,
pink, the soft vacancy between my legs,
pink, the hospital gown.
or was it green? I can never remember.
yes, it was green.
just like the grass I would fall asleep on everyday.
green like the aloe plant that my grandmother would use as a cure for every ailment:
sunburn, nausea, heartache.
the herbs that we use to cook are all green,
my favourites are mint and thyme
my little brother’s foot once got caught under a tree and started to turn green.
but not the same kind of green as the lemongrass bush.
lemongrass is wonderful, half green and half gold.
gold, the necklace that my mother wears everyday.
she said that I can have it once she dies.
I stayed up the entire night wondering what would happen if I die before she does.
(I am almost entirely sure that she will die after me)
many things are golden,
the sun before it leaves us in the evening,
the bars my father keeps hidden ‘for emergencies’,
the desert sand I bled on for hours.
some things glitter and I mistake them for gold before I realise that they are silver.
the rings my sister insists on wearing,
and the good cutlery we take out for the visitors.
the stars that are millions of years away appear as silver (they are not)
silver, the colour of the full moon.
the loveliest phrase I have ever heard sounds like silver chiming in the wind.
envy of the moon
used to describe beautiful women only.
all of the beautiful women I know smell like citrus.
fresh but sour, like the colour orange itself.
orange, like the peels of winter fruits.
orange, the sunsets I sit and stare into.
now the sun has set on our voyage.
shall we stare into it together?
tread carefully, we have finally reached the end.
take caution as you step over the edge,
do not get your foot caught on of the many corners.
did you enjoy the journey?
did you enjoy floating across the wave of light, the spectrum of colour that is my life?
I hope that it was a bizarre, extraordinary experience.
it has exhausted me, excuse me while I rest my hands and eyes.
before I go, I must thank you
from the bottom of my (sometimes black) heart
for taking the time to accompany me.
I am eternally grateful.
About the author:
Humairaa Mayet is incredibly passionate about issues of social justice and strives to make a difference in the world through as many avenues as possible. She spends her days listening to music, cooking and baking, attending protests, and raising her plants.
drawing by annalipski