Who Am I?

A Poem for My Mother

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

This thought has been stuck on her mind

Like a record stuck on repeat.

Her life seems to be defined by this terminally ill beat

So, she is forced to ask herself the question;

“Who Am I?”

Who was she to demand anyone’s respect or neglect?

How many mistakes would it take

Before it finally hits home, what is at stake

She feared that one day these errors,

Vehicles for change would drive through her heart like a sharp stake

At a young age, she learned to wear her mask well at day

But once all the light went away

Hands and knees, known to tremble and shake

Her persona would crack, fall apart, like Haiti after the earthquake.

From ever since she could remember

Her mind has been molded into a collector,

An amalgamation of predetermined information

She was force-fed notions to stunt her imagination

"Kill any dreams of becoming your own person

"You’re a woman so do as you’re told."

My mother was a dreamer nevertheless

Despite the circumstances, she was dealt

She never failed to try her best,

Even when it became blatantly obvious that her best would never be good enough.

She did not understand why at her young age though.

She was confused and dazed

For all the ways life seemed to be so much simpler for her male siblings

It seemed simply because their name was "man"

Life had given them the idea that

They could own anything they could touch with their hands

She just could not understand

Why the boys were free to roam the land

Climb mango trees in the fields,

And come back home late

While she was stuck at home,

Washing wares, ironing clothes,

Putting dinner on the plate

Yeah, a "Young Woman’s Fate"

But as I mentioned before, my mother was a dreamer

And when no one was around to look,

She would quietly fill in the pages of her history book

A story of a woman who was unafraid to search for herself

Unfortunately, however, the divide did not stop there

For within her family, existed a hierarchy

That would separate those who were dark and those who were fair

Life had placed yet another obstacle in her path

It was testing her resolve.

Every night, she would pray to God to absolve her of her sin

Of having skin with a bit too much melanin

She would wipe away tears of frustration and vexation

That nature had made the selection for her to be a few tones darker in complexion

She was left with thoughts in her mind that sped by like cars on the highway

Drivers on speed would shout profanity at her way

Spitting venom in her direction

Never really stopping to give direction

No eye contact, No connection

Just leaving her behind, behind her wheel, trying to figure it all out, like

Who Am I?

Every day she would hear idealists as they preached their minds,

Yet people only listened to those with power as they sell us what we think we need to find

So, ask yourselves, “Who are we?” as a people

Separated by the hate of our ancestors

Take a step back, try to reset your receptors

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

Have no fear"

For if we continue as we are,

We are forever doomed to remain in the dark

Blissfully ignorant, as we disregard what we’re quickly becoming

A generation of lost individuals

Searching for none existent purposes

In a very corrupted world

So, she pauses for a moment…

Often at night, she finds herself tired of the fight

Bombarded by opinions, left and right

Trying to figure it all out, who’s wrong, and who’s right?

But it is no one

Because we all live based on what we know

And we, as people seem to know nothing

So, she is forced to ask herself again

Who Am I?

Given the name "Indira" at birth

She grew to become a spectacular variable

Subject to constant change

Labeled as strange,

Deranged ideas, of normalcy.

She was told not be different from what they wanted

Anything seen as such would only bring detriment

Any attempt to break the mold put in place would be broken down like sediment

Have no space here for sentiments

She was raised to be "herself"

She was expected to conform to the society

She was supposed to abide by the laws that bind her mind under lock and key

It took a very long time before she managed to break free

She now turns to me and asks,

“Stephen, who are you?”

And I do not know what to say

But, I will, like my mother before me,

Continue without fail to search for myself.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror

I can see my mother’s eyes staring back at me

It’s all too familiar, there is a glimmer that is similar

I look deep into the windows of her soul

I see the moment of my birth from the earth

To the point where my body will betray my conviction for life and return to the dirt

I too, like my mother before me

Will leave behind a living legacy

That will tell stories of my life

And the things I found purpose in

Where we come from,

Where we end up

It is all connected by the same tether cord

My eyes see sights she dreamt of so many years ago

Look, your dreams did not die

They took refuge, somewhere deep in your rib cage

Now let them breathe again, let them spread their wings, let them fly.

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Stephen Chan Wah
Stephen Chan Wah
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Stephen Chan Wah

Trinidadian Writer, currently residing in Toronto. The dream is to change lives with words and concepts, if in any way at all for the better. If you take the time to read any of my pieces, you have my most sincere gratitude :D 

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