Tisha Thomas

Tisha Thomas Uses Poetry to Heal From Colonialism, Xenophobia & Colorism

Tisha Thomas
Tisha Thomas Uses Poetry to Heal From Colonialism, Xenophobia & Colorism

Where are you from?

I do not say here

Instead

My mouth instinctually forms the name of an estranged

home

One that I have visited all of four times

A home that would consider me a foreigner

Because in my mouth, our mother tongue, sounds diluted

When I speak it

It does not flow as beautifully as my ancestors’

Because it has been tainted

By a language belonging to a people

Who did not see my people, as people

But I still cling to it

Because in the home that raised me

I am still a foreigner

And in this land of foreigners

Claiming a distant homeland

Gives me a community

Gives me an identity

And when you have lived life in the in between

Too cultured to be from here but never cultured enough

You cling to things

To feel a little safer

Child of an immigrant

I house two often conflicting worlds

That don’t always see eye to eye

 

I am a double life

Torn between two cultures

One, that was literally carried across an ocean, preserved, and passed down to me

Another, I’ve looked at from afar but have not able to embrace

Both can feel foreign

 

I am a walking in-between

My mouth, a dual sword of split tongues

Always finding words I can never translate into the other

 

But

 

I was also born from uplifted roots planted on foreign soil, not knowing if it can grow here

I was made of sacrifice

Histories carried on backs on a journey to a world away

Years of trying to learn a language whose syllables don’t quite fit in the folds of mouths

Childhood aspirations exchanged for the American Dream

At times that dream was all they had

 

I exist because of broken American dreams that refused to give up

When strength is all you have seen resilient is all you know how to be

And I am anything if not that

I am a testament, a monument, of my parent’s sacrifice

And I’ll be damned if the person I become isn’t worth that

Mother

I am a reflection of my mother

So, when I saw her arguing with her own reflection, more than anyone else

I learned to do the same

 

She traced her skin

Pointing to parts she did not like

Hoping she could will it to transform into the beautiful she wanted to be

 

If she wasn’t already beautiful

Then, how could I be?

 

To her, self love was a concept as foreign as this country

A luxury she was taught she could never afford

Because where we are from

Our love is reserved only for others

And our arms should only stretch wide enough to hold everyone but ourselves

Anything more was selfish

And her mother did not raise a selfish daughter

And my mother did not raise a selfish daughter

 

So here we are

Circling this enigma

Trying to break a cycle we don’t know who began

Trying to unlearn this hatred

 

Mother

The next time I look at you

I will turn your arguments into affirmations of selfless self love

We will trace your skin

Only to paint its beauty

And you will do the same for me

That is how we break this cycle

That is how we learn to love ourselves

The women in my family

The women in my family

Twisted their bodies

Into bandages

Holding together broken families

Hoping they would be enough

 

Hardened themselves

Into iron columns

Holding up broken men

 

Melted themselves

Into glue

Thinking they could piece together cracks in fragile egos

 

Shrunk themselves

So others would feel tall

 

Hid scars behind fake smiles and empty laughter

Because the perception of happiness

Was more important than its reality

 

Toxicity becomes normalcy

When it is all you have known

 

So to these women I offer myself as both apology and sacrifice

And make a promise

 

That the future women of this family

Will know better

Home Is You

Being born out of a brown womb

On red, white, and blue soil

Usually means that you are born with

Each foot in either country

With the border splitting you in two

Unsure where you can call home

Because each land

Will deem you foreign

For not being enough of the other

 

Being a vessel of two tongues

Usually means that you do not concern yourself

With man-made walls

Because each time you speak

In the language this land taught you

 

A wall erupts

 

Between you and those you love most

And that barrier at times

Feels impossible to breach

Leaving you wishing

Each conversation came with subtitles

 

And even though you may have

Two mother tongues

One will not feel at home in your mouth

It will feel like a refugee

Trying to plant roots on hostile ground

 

Being born somewhere you are not from

Usually means

That you’ve often found yourself

Defined in the in-betweens

But that identity is one of you’ve found comfort in

Because you have finally learned that home is not a place

But that home

Is you

Fair and Lovely

My ancestors were taught

To hate the color of their skin so much

They built an economy off of it

Built an industry

Dedicated to the pursuit of

Fair and Lovely

As if the those words were mutually exclusive

As if milky-white skin was the standard of beauty

As if this pursuit is ingrained in our DNA

As if erasing our melanin wouldn’t erase our history

 

My people fought bravely

For freedom

To rid their land of foreigners

Then fought themselves to look like them

Praised themselves for having complexion

That looked like their oppressors

 

My mother was

A beautiful golden brown

Until her body became a war zone

Fighting its own civil war

Destroying traces of the color given by her creator

 

This hatred runs so deep

That as her body attacked itself

As the disease stripped her of any pigment

And painted her entire body white

She celebrated