This is Part 2 of our posts from the excellent new set of pamphlets from 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE. Today we’re delighted to share a poem from Roshni Goyate’s collection Shadow Work.

The publisher Rough Trade Books explain more about the work below . .

We all have shadow selves—the sides to us that are hidden, unknown, unconscious. These are parts of ourselves that we learn at a very early age to turn away from. Shadow Work is a poetry collection that seeks to discern what’s in the shadows, to uncover what is silenced. It explores the contradictions of living multiple lives as a woman of colour, a lover, a mother and a poet in the 21st century. Through the themes of food, family, music, place, and language, these poems attempt to interrogate broader questions of globalisation, austerity, immigrant-diasporic identity, and the impacts of intergenerational silence and trauma. 

Rough Trade Books

Coconut Oil

Vatika bottle sits in the bathroom,
contents solidified by London’s night.
Mum microwaves it to a clear sap—
an ancestral ritual improvised.

She sits me down, braids unplaited,
drags plastic comb through my hair.
Ouch Mummy, Mummy not too hard!
Pretends my squeaks are not there.

Drip-drip onto my invisible scalp.
Grap-grip with the palms of her hand.
Rub-rub rub-rub taming flyaways.
Slap-slip onto the slick-dark of strands.

A soft scent, sweet and buttery, slippery
tinged with metallic sweat of my brow,
provokes questions in the playground,
Why do you smell so funny? How?

The powder-red shame of coconut oil
spray paints itself onto my skin.
I delete it from life like a bad line of code,
no chance of it coming back in.

When suddenly, this hair oil that gave me such grief
comes back for wellbeing’s bright new age.
No longer smelling funny, a great white commodity
marked up for organic food shops. All the rage.

Roshni Goyate

Coconut Oil is taken from Roshni Goyate’s pamphlet entitled Shadow Work, one of four pamphlets in the new collection by 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Rough Trade Books) – BUY HERE

Roshni Goyate is one of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, a poetry collective that began as a WhatsApp group and evolved into a spiritual sisterhood. She is the proud daughter of Indian immigrants, mother of Raïfi and co-founder of The Other Box.