A Bad Grain of Rice


I hated my Dad.

All kids at one time or another hate their parents
– when punished; denied freedom;
denied the latest!-must-have! toy/fast food/experience.

I did not hate my Dad because he rationed my sugar addiction;
nor because he countered ad industry seduction of my tiny mind.
I did not hate my Dad because he beat me or abused me
(he was a loving, caring father who did neither).

I hated my Dad                    because he was Black.

My brother and I,
two Sri Lankan brothers up the street,
a brown-skinned boy (parentage unknown)
all went to a White school.

Teachers: White.
Playschool, cub-scouts, church, Sunday school: White.
Closest friends: White. Mother: White.
Dad:                                          Black.

Dad at school gates, parent’s evening, sports day
reminding me                       I am not White.
Me. Shirking down into parka-coat,
away from proud beaming Black face.

Dad. So obvious. Chatting to other parents.
No thoughts for my embarrassment. No shame.
Kids. Staring. At him, at me. Who’s that?
Is that his Dad? That’s his Dad? Look how Black he is.

Standing out amongst all the other normal White faces.
A bad grain of rice in the dish.
Spoiling everything.

A grade A education. Fails.
A journey of all-too-familiar name-calling, taunts,
patronising pats of afro, scuffles, fights.
The self-application of clothes peg to reduce size of nose.

Journey towards being proud of my Dad,
being proud of who I am,
knowing who I am,
– a continuing extra-curricular activity.

Patient parents persist.
Journey to island in the sun, island of father’s birth
Great grandparents, favourite uncles, half-aunties,
second-cousins. Extended horizons.

Patient parents plus Viv Richards,
Mighty Gabby, RPB, Bill Cosby,
Daley Thompson, John Barnes, Mr T,
Prince, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley…

Love and pride for my Father.
Love and pride for my Mother.
Blessed to be born into union of
two such apparently differing cultures.

Love, pride, and at peace
with my un-pegged nose.
taken from forthcoming poetry collection Ad-liberation, published by Peepal Tree Press Sept. 2013

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