-10,000 sits on top of your head
your life bar in a game
drained what does one do when the game glitches
and -10,000 is where you start?

I want to buy you a house
fill it with beds, tuck you in
but you would insist on your laptop
rest is not a word in your dictionary
never has been
the world omitted it
exchanged it
for brown skin and self-taught english

It was embarrassing sometimes
I wanted to shove you to the back of my shame closet
Have you seen it? I filled it as a child with everything I didn’t like about
myself: my name, because no one can pronounce it (I’ve given up, did
you know?), my last name (the one you and mama gave me. I’m sorry I disrespected our heritage. I’m trying to be better), the words we speak (I
have two accents now. I try not to answer your calls when my friends are
around). I’m getting around to cleaning it, I promise.

But everything that has been wrongfully taken
does not deter you
look at where you are now, look at where I am now
gratitude spills from my lips

you encourage me to make a difference
if there’s anyone who knows that roof tiles
cannot be changed from the bottom rung of the ladder, it’s you
exhaustion, purchased perpetually
takes up space in your eye bags
I will carry you up
those roof tiles are waiting for you

respect bursts from my heart swallowing me whole
expanding until I cannot look you in the eye
without crying I look in the mirror until my face blurs
starts to look like yours I will never be even half of who you have had to be
I can only hope to try

The poem, "A letter to my father", has been republished courtesy of Ethos Books, with permission from Poorva Maithani.

Poorva Maithani is a hopeful poet and fashionista, who also plays tennis, reads and longboards in her free time. A fast eater, she can finish an entire meal in under six minutes (without even trying to).

Brown is Redacted: Reflecting on Race in Singapore is edited by Kristian-Marc James Paul, Mysara Aljaru and Myle Yan Tay, and published by Ethos Books (2022). It is available for pre-order here.

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