clean hands / because oily fingers make me sick / can’t stand the sight of / curry caked nails / you said / clean hands / dirty apron / soap in between / scrub / until they turn to rubber gloves / clean hands / wash away / the dirt and grime / not a speck of brown in sight / clean until they’re white / clean hands / fork and knife / silver scrubbed to shine / skin sanitizer burning / clumsy china clatters/ chawal clanking on chamach / maybe i was too loud / or not owed your love / because i mumbled / and muddled prayers / and my tongue stumbled / foreign words / foreign food / clean hands and a dirty mouth / you bought me gold / to chain my fingers / it meant you loved me / right / clean hands shaking / rajma spilling / brown curry seeping / white tablecloth stained / and maybe i wasn’t clean enough / to make you love me / or maybe i was / too brown british bengali bred / okay / put your hand by mine / and we’ll see / whose is cleaner
By E. M. Roy
E. M. Roy is a British-Indian poet currently living between Singapore and Pennsylvania. Her work centres around loss, colonisation and third-culture identity. She can be found on Instagram at @emroypoet.