I Found Myself in Sunbeams
Sunlight is my favourite respite.
I love the way it helps me reject lifetimes of aspirations for pale(r) skin.
I love the way it turns
fuzzyfinehairs into golden slivers
lightning bolts to melt the knots in my back.
I love the way it makes my skin prickle with sweat and warmth. Have you smelled sunskin?
It is a person’s purest essence.
If you want to know someone, sit with them in natural light.
I was told at the age of 5
that my future husband would one day see my hands at the altar and
before placing the ring on that heartlinefinger,
he would leave because
Stop biting your nails! That’s a filthy habit. Little girls don’t do that.
23 holds desperately, tightly onto 5 whose fingertips were occasionally dipped in chilli powder and always
always swatted away.
These hands are chubby and chewed-on and tobacco-stained.
These hands have touched and felt and traced outlines of unsaid words.
These hands have been shaky and sweaty because of crushes and class presentations.
These hands have held cancer-ridden bodies and morse-coded iloveyous that couldn’t be heard.
These hands have written me into today.
I am a brown woman.
Historied. Coloured. Colourful. Baggaged.
I used to be a brown girl.
Shamed. Constrained. Commanded. Questioning.
Coming from a brown family, but there is no blame to place.
This story – my story – about my mind and body bleeds and overlaps
Like the red-gold in my veins and the folds in my brain.
I speak them, mind and body
As if they are separate
As if the unending narratives in my brain don’t threaten their need for release through exposing that red-gold liquid.
But this is impossible, body and mind should not be spoken separately.
Should I bind them instead? Mody-fy?
Because I am a brown woman.
Brown women do not have the liberty of owning their bodies fully, just like that.
Brown women do not have the liberty of owning their minds fully, just like that.
Mental illness is not an illness.
Anxiety, depression are just phases, mood swings, woman.
Mental illness is not the cancer turning my mother’s left breast three times too big.
Mental illness is not her skin turning black and blue and purple because of it,
As if a concentrated reminder of my father who also turned her skin black and blue and purple.
Mental illness is not watching that; it is not watching my baby brothers watch that.
Mental illness is not the chemical imbalances in my brain, leeching rationality and certainty and health.
Always metaphored to bridge understanding,
But still never cancerous enough.
Mental illness is not bandaged wrists grabbed by inquisitive uncles and disparagingly laughed at.
These women are never strong enough.
My body was never my own
And my mind was never my own.
Mental illness is always being hungry for acceptance
Always eating rejection
And being left starved.
But I found ways to nourish myself.
The steady buzz of needle and ink writes new forevernarratives in my skin
Replacing the toxic stories in my head.
Who translates and honours and respects
My mind and my body.
In ways that other people never do – strangers on the street, families, men, always men –
Staking my claim.
These forever etchings remind me
That I am my own
Working a little bit at a time to write back into existence
Pieces of myself that have been undone
Merely for existing as a brown woman.
I write new narratives for my mental health through the art on my body.
My mind is my own
Regardless of how often it tries to tell me otherwise.
But I remind it
If I can control my body, then you’re no different, brain
I remind it.
I remind myself.
I am my own muse.
Raisa Moola has been living and surviving twenty-four eventful years—most of these providing the perfect inspiration for poetry, which she tries dedicating as much free time to as possible. Other interests involve copious amounts of reading, discovering new music—most of which is old music (she’s a wizened soul, she’s been told)—always thinking through and finding inspiration for her next tattoo, and perfecting her true calling of being a cat lady. Besides these healing and nourishing endeavours, she’s in the process of completing her first year of a Masters in Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town, with research focused on how relationships of wellbeing are fostered between pets and their people. There’s a running theme here—Raisa is hoping to eventually find employment that involves animals and therapy. She also hopes to continue honing her spoken and written poetry, and to eventually publish a book of poems.