A poem about all the places I could have been born instead of Montreal, Canada

September 7th, 1999. Southampton, England

Here, my grandfather never chooses to uproot the family and spread sugar cane roots into Canada.

I grow up on Denzel Avenue, a Sidhu family home that has raised us all.

I have an accent thick enough to drown in.

I spend my Saturdays working at my grandad’s shop,

I stop angsty British teenagers from stealing sweets.

 

My mother’s bones are always damp because of the English rain.

She trades shai paneer for scotch eggs instead of poutine.

 

My father does not drop out of college.

He works at a bank, he is more stock market that shelf stocker.

 

I still grow up cheering Liverpool football club instead of Southampton.

I grow up a dirty soccer player.

I dig cleats into every boy who has ever hurt me.

 

I grow up surrounded by family.

My younger cousins recognize me.

I am the older sister that the ocean never swallowed whole.

 

September 7th, 1999.

Calgary, Alberta

 

Here, my mother and father choose to stay.

They build their first home in a city that cannot make up its mind about the weather.

 

My mother’s fingertips are blue from the cold instead of stained yellow because of haldi.

She learns how to chameleon herself in the prairies.

 

My father works for an air conditioning company.

He works long days assembling machines, he learns that small parts play an important role in the bigger picture.

 

I am sprouting into the stampede.

I am a wild thing worth knowing.

 

September 7th, 1999.

Punjab, India

 

Here, my great grandparents do not believe in the promise of a new world.

They choose to raise their eight children in the same place their family has lived for centuries.

They do not cut off their ties to the motherland and their turbans.

 

I am not Robyn I am Simran or Rajpreet or something, I am named after a grandmother I think.

 

My mother is still a professor of Punjabi literature and I grow up thinking poets can be sun kissed too.

 

The days are as long as my hair.

I am a baptized Sikh, I flash my kirpan under the chin of every man who thinks himself conquerer.

 

September 7th, 1999.

Nowhere.

 

Here, my mother and father never meet on a rooftop.

 

Here in Punjab, my mother marries the boy next door.

Or

She continues her career as a professor and eventually runs the whole university.

She mothers every bright young thing that enters her office.

She learns anything there is to know about everything.

Or

She takes up the catholic faith and becomes a nun, swears celibacy like she sometimes tells me she should have done when I bother her.

 

Here in Southampton, my father becomes a soccer player, he looks good in red and on the cover of sports magazines, he is half smile charming, his face is plastered on every wall in the country.

Or

He too thinks about how his family calls a new shoreline home every few years. He has even more of an identity crisis than I do.

Or

He does immigrate across the ocean to Montreal. He holds on to the first love of his life, he flips burgers while she works on becoming a paramedic. When she saves him from his first bad high, he says I love you back. He marries someone my grandfather does not approve of.

 

Here I am just the wish of a someday daughter.

Ryan ModyComment