Posted in Free verse, Poems with Author's Note

30/2017: Break

I can see them try to break you,
this other, a thing that exists
outside the comfort of what they
think they know
too scared to see you
and their face reflected in your eyes.

To look those powerful eyes,
that allow no lies,
and ask them to stare at the
hate that they made into
“alternative love.”

A love for fear,
for the words of a man,
who saw division as the
way to built unity.

I see them try to break you,
and I know this truth
they will not claim,
that you cannot be broken.

For when you feel weary
and tired, and just about
to break – remember that
I am beside you,
my strength is yours
and my words are yours.

So when you are about to break
remember that
you are allowed to take breaks,
you do not have to be the end,
you are not alone.

I see them try to break you,
and cry because they are breaking,
and you are wrapped in the power
of us and you will never break.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

Posted in Free verse

Day 350: Curly Hair

The texture of my life
is not bound by the
straightness of my hair.

Though you try to tell me,
that my dreams can
only be achieved by the
light reflecting off
the glow of my
porcelain skin,
available today
for the easy
purchase of my
identity.

If the wishes I have
can come true by
forgetting
the part of me that
connects our shared
histories and ancestors,

Then keep your white washed
fantasies, because I
dominate in the dark,
armored by colours kissed
by the sun,
and my big curly hair
reminding the world,
I am untamed
and I will not
shrink my presence
to fit comfortably
in your pocket.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: When I was writing this poem, this picture came to my mind, and I had to include it.

The photo is courtesy of my very talented friend Ramya from Ramya J Images, in Toronto. For on of her birthdays, we had a photo shoot to help build her portfolio – the pictures from that even remain some of my favorite to date 🙂 Such a talented photographer, filmmaker, storyteller, and artist.

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Posted in Rhyming

Day 320: Hey, White Person

I refuse to let the politics of fear,
begin to divide the love between us.
So much has happened this past year,
I get the sway of a blank canvas.

Sometimes the choices may seem unclear,
but really what’s left of justice?
Is your view from my shoes, sincere?
Or is it easy to pretend to be blameless?

I choose to think this is a smear,
a move to spin the emotional axis,
until we believe things so severe,
that all people are only their bias.

I know you are more than fear,
and not some words that are faceless.
Because you also have a conversation to steer,
in unmasking the myth of progress.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: A response to these posters that have started showing up across East York part of the City of Toronto.  

Also on another note – sometimes it takes a community to write a poem:) Thank you to Janny, Jenn, Manimolie, Sandra and Wendy, for always having insight and answering my many many many questions! 

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Posted in Prose

Day 289: Why Brown Lives Should Care

Let’s forget the fact that these lives lost were people, with dreams and families. Imagining future stories to be created and recollecting tales from the past.

Let’s pretend that these people didn’t just step outside to see, and to feel the air of freedom on their onyx skin. Understanding the gift that freedom is, and the ability to share their wonder with others.

Let’s argue that all the things we know about their humanity were false and that the truth of who they were, lay in past mistakes. In choices made in the circumstance that their privileged prevented.

So – ask me again why this matters?

The hierarchy of race, we were taught to care about from the time our eyes could discern the spectrum of life that was around us.  As if the brown skin was better, was (en)lightened because it glowed like maple syrup on snow in the winter, and looked like gilded sands on a Grecian beach in the summer.

A system that sells us the belief that milk baths will quench the thirst within, to belong. That the sun only shines for those who “need” color and not for those blessed with it. In this world where contrast is beautiful, and dark shadows are just the background in which alabaster figures command…

attention, freedom, focus, centre point, the right to be

Because if the only way I can talk to you is in words of colour and melanin, let me remind you that brown is made from mixing purple and yellow; blue and orange; red and green – There is no “white” in there.

You, my brother, my friend, are more closely aligned with the shadows than you are with the light. Those eyes choose to only see two tones, and though it makes them glow, those eyes will remain blinded by reflections cast by ivory statues;created by men who sought to capture all the world’s colours and only give us back two.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: This piece, “Why Brown Lives Should Care,” was written as a response to all my family, friends, and acquaintances that see #blacklivesmatter as a black issue and ignore the fact that it talks about systematic racism. Working in social Justice, I have held many sessions with youth and community members from the South Asian community, who will tell me that they don’t face racism because they are part of the “White” crowd, that they fit into these patriarchal and colonial structures (my more honest words) and will be seen as individuals, not by the colour of their skin. Challenging racism in racialized communities still remains one of the hardest parts of my job but I always believe, things will get better. 

Posted in Free verse, Poem

Day 49: The Lies We Tell

**Trigger Warning: Abuse (Physical)**

Deep Brown eyes stare back at me,
Fleeting whispers floating between us,
Shadows creep silently,
Across broad brown shoulders,
The darkness melding within the chocolate hues,
Lengthening to point accusingly,
At the faded bruise
That still held faint outlines of his hand.

“Are you okay? Should I call someone?”
I hear the teacher’s voice whisper
Behind
In front
Avoiding.

My eyes jump back up,
Shamed to be caught,
Starting at the dark eyes,
That hid darker shadows.

“I’m fine, I fell”
I watched her rouge tipped lips open in reply,
Tasting the words,
Rolling them around her tongue
Until they fit,
Like words spoken
In love
In faith
In truth

“Should I call a doctor?”
The persistent voice asked again,
Concern and patronization moving together
To create a melody of the question,

“No really I am fine, I fell.”
Stronger, this time
The eyes lit with the flame of memory,
Recreated to a story to be told over and over,
Each time more real than the last.

Hands lift reaching across
Touch the fading bruise,
Face flinching from where my fingers lay,
Turning to look away.

With a breath, I slowly withdraw my hand
Shaking as it moves from the mirror.
Square the shoulders,
Bright smile,
A deep inhalation and whisper…
“I am fine, I fell.”

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: Sometimes the title is the hardest part of writing, I am still not sure if this is right, or if it should be The Lies We Tell Ourselves (sometimes I way too obsessive over one word, but other times I realize that is what makes me love writing – each word).

Posted in Free verse, Poem

Day 44: Culture

Am I defined by the words on this page,
Or through the hands with which I write them?
My pen traces the curves and lines,
Of colonial words used to erase history.

My understanding of “Eastern knowledge
A smörgåsbord of people, ideas, and terms,
You did not understand,
Yet teach me about myself.

I pray to a religion created,
From a forceful weaving of rituals, practices and beliefs,
A basket forged of stolen gold, and rubies,
Appropriated idols and haphazard wisdom.

My past remains a mystery,
Familiar stories told in foreign expressions,
My terms of reference,
Situated in letters and words,
Which are not my people.

Yet knowledge seeps through the holes,
Like escaping dreams of a dead man’s sleep,
Where intent and belief could not
Be reconciled and stories claimed.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy