on being a queer girl in a desi family
I line up my cousins, one by one
and knock them down, one by one:
Married. Married with a baby. Engaged.
Married with a baby on the way.
Married. Married. Going to be married.
Between them, they have four daughters
and I want to be there to show them how
to paint the colors of the sky instead of
their broken hearts; I wish that I could
teach them that it’s okay to be fire
instead of smoke; it’s okay to be a girl
it’s okay to be a girl and you are beautiful
and you don’t need to be a boy to matter.
One of my cousins broke her engagement,
said she wanted to study more, learn more,
be better, and I wanted to laugh. I wish I could
be that brave. Look my parents in the eye, say:
I don’t want a boy you have chosen for me.
I don’t want a life you have chosen for me.
I want so much: to feel air in my lungs instead
of fog; to smile at a girl and know I have her heart;
to raise a daughter who will understand that
no matter how the world tries to break her
she is worth it and she is worth everything.
Halfway across the world, my cousins
are three and four and five years old
and growing up and growing girls
and I wish they knew me. I wish they
really knew me. I wish I could tell them
that they live in a new age, that I live
in a world where I can marry anyone
I want in fifty states but I can’t tell
anyone in my family that I love girls.
There are poems you write and then
there are poems that write you.
I wish I was stronger. I wish I was
brave. I wish I knew how to love
girls and be loved at the same time.
I want to learn to be a hurricane,
be a flood, be a thunderstorm.
I want to teach my little cousins
that I’m okay, that I will be okay,
and that they will be okay, too.
That it’s okay to love girls and
it’s okay to want more and it’s okay
it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay.
(But to teach something,
you first have to learn it.)
There’s a country on the other side
of the world and it’s beating in my heart
and I wish – I wish – I wish it loved me
as much as I want to be loved.
By M.J. Pearl
M.J. Pearl is an aspiring writer, currently in her third year of college in California. She’s been writing poetry for three years and short stories for even longer.