The final part of our extracts from the new collection of work from 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE. All 4 pieces can be found in the excellent new publication from Rough Trade Books.
Today we bring you the poem Pariah by Sharan Hunjan from her pamphlet Hatch.
In Hatch, Sharan Hunjan presents an utterly compelling set of poems that break open and break apart language, mother tongue, motherhood, love and death through the always acute observations of a second-generation Punjabi immigrant. It is a startling, playful interrogation of the coloniser’s language rooted in the nostalgia and guilt of the possible loss of a mother tongue. It is heightened by raw reflections of what it means to become a mother in a series of eponymous poems which lie at the heart of the collection.
Hatch is a birth, an opening, a beginning.
Rough Trade Books
Billy bosh I’m jammin’ mate!
Bish bash bob’s yer uncle!
Loot the store I’m a damned juggernaut from the jungle
pinch punch first day of the month—
I got a mouth full of pickle… a tongue full of chutney…
—I’m an avatar baby take those bangles
bangles of Blighty smash them on your wedding day
in your khaki dungarees you’ll get your kharma mate
it’ll bite you in the balls smash you on the nose—
That’s five ingredients
to make your bowl of booze
and it’ll all be tickety-boo sab teek hai babu that’s tickety-boo
now fetch me a hot toddy in the midst of these typhoons!
Use shampoo you look like a thug
repeat the mantra baby—
chit chat chit chat we used to write chittis
letters & letters send me a chitti from the pind
tell me life in the Raj is cushty it’s pukka mate
it’s higgledy-piggledy topsy-turvy tit-for-tat hocus-pocus
take me transform me wind me up knock me
down turn me around I’m your plaything…
end in your down-legged-dog pose warrior pose
‘cause I’m a pariah in my own bungalow
in my pyjamas eating basmati and daal
sitting in my yoga pose
with my chakras all aligned—
and when I’m out let’s say Namaste
let’s say Namaste
let’s say Namaste
so cross your legs
bow your heads
smell your sweat
and repeat after me
NAM – AS – TEY
Sharan Hunjan is part of the collective 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE who published a book of poetry and a zine together. She has also been published in the poetry anthology SLAM! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This chosen by Nikita Gill (Pan Macmillan 2020). She is a Secondary English teacher who grew up in Southall but emigrated to East London.