Colours of Words

By A Jessie Michael


Diversity is our last name.
Born speaking three languages (or four),
We, unconscious code switchers,
created creole 
before linguists caught up with us.
Colourless and colour blind.
Playing in each other’s homes,
Their food, became ours 
 Ours, theirs.
Their foul words ours,
And our curses theirs.

We walk into temples,
Mosques, churches,
attending christenings, weddings
and funerals.
No discomfort we feel 
participating in diverse festivals
of each religion and race.
Come to think of it, 
Diversity must be our middle name.

We don each other’s costumes 
as a matter of daily wear;
no one claims ownership,
it’s all national fare.
Then of course we marry each other
Creating a lovelier mess
of bi-racial and tri-racial children
of no definite ethnicity.
Growing up bi-religious and tri-lingual,
Colourless and colour blind,

We live everywhere in this world,
Never feeling we are different
until we have to fill a form.
Asian, Indian, European, East European
Middle Eastern, African, African American,
 American and other.
How the heck do we know?
Dang those forms that ask us so,
to tick boxes to put us into boxes.
Dang the politicians of single colour 
because they cannot see the rainbow.

Actually, diversity is our first name. 

HAVE WE?  HAVE WE?        

Have we learnt another language
to challenge our little brains?
Have we walked in others’ shoes 
and learnt of their pain?
Have we shared with them a cup of joy
and freely drunk of theirs too?
Have we sat at their table and
broken bread with them?
Have we stood beside the others 
and thought them just the same?
Have we risen above ancient anger,
forgiven our fellow men,
thought them worthy of our compassion
and stretched out our hands?
Have we emptied the bitter cup
that diminishes all men?

Our colours are but geography,
our religions but pathways 
to the same universal One.
So, who is to say who is better?
It is always our own buried fear,
that we pray at the altar,
then curse the man on the street
just because he looks different 
and is from another land;
just because we will not say
he is really a God-made-Man.

A. Jessie Michael is a retired Associate Professor of English from Malaysia. She has written short stories for local magazines and newspapers. She has published an anthology of short stories Snapshots, with two other writers and most recently her own anthology The Madman and Other Stories (2016).


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