Paean to My Brown Skin By Vijaya Sundaram

Paean to My Brown Skin

Brown, like the ground, like the earth at birth, full of mystery and fragrance, lines and marks, a history of my life and vagrant self, showing arcs of flight and fall, this skin of mine holds light and sound, heft and air, and bones and flesh and I thank it for holding me, for carrying me through life with grace and kindness, letting me know of right and wrong, and sight and song, this skin I’m in takes me in my dreams to the skies,  warms as I fly up high, and look around, and see the ground, like my skin, so brown, so lined, so full of dark places and lit ones, and before I alight on earth, I face sunward, and onward I go, with the brown of the ground in the skin I’m in.

And once I hated it, the brown, the dark of it, the stark of it, the looks I took, the cutting remarks of aunts and uncles butting into my dream-space, “So dark, who will marry you?” and I laughed, and scoffed at them, but their words burned within, and my skin wished to be fair, not burnt brown umber, I remember this and all else, and I remember thinking, “I wish I were fair, and I wish I were pretty, and I wish I didn’t care, and damn this self-pity, and so I stopped, and it stopped, and I was free.  And the skin I’m in took the slaps and the hits, the rulers on brown knuckles from teachers who couldn’t reach me, and scathed from fights with sibling, and the scolding (much deserved) from parents much loved, and I was free, so free.

And I formed the words within, the worlds within, and my skin took on its radiance, its joyous love of itself, for this is the skin of one who loves, who lives in peace, who wants to be good, do good, find good, and I do, I will and I would.  No shoulds, just wills, for the one in this skin, and I know what it means to be seen one way, or perceived in another, and so, my skin helps me choose the friends whose love I cherish, and whom I’ll hold in my heart until I perish.

This skin I’m in rejoices in the air on it, the kiss of rain, the bliss of love, the thrill of guitar and sitar, and songs from afar, brushing past so lightly, I feel them on me, all those songs, that music, the love of my beloved, the love of my child, and the furry brushing past of my sweet canine friend.

And the scent of flowers from a whiff of after-shower spray, and the scent of cardamom and clove, and ginger and geranium, all so fine, so divine, all sit on the brown of the skin I’m in.

And this skin I bless, I touch with love, this skin which went from satin to rougher cloth, this skin with dark marks that appear, this skin which sags in some places, this skin which protects and gives such delight, I will miss this skin when I die, for I will not fly with it, to the places in the sun.  I will shed this skin, and I’ll mourn.

By Vijaya Sundaram


A native of India, Vijaya Sundaram has lived in the Boston, Massachusetts, area for the past 25 years. She is a singer-song-writer, guitarist, poet and writer who spent seventeen years as an 8th Grade English teacher at a local public school.  Only recently feeling the urge to publish, she’s been sending out her work to various literary magazines. Vijaya has been published in literary magazines Calliope and The Phoenix Rising Review. You can read more of Vijaya’s work on her blog, StrangeLander2015.

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