Umang Kalra

Love in the Diaspora

We meet in a room full of micro-aggressions. Make eye
in the middle of a memory. We hold hands in the
of the homeland, fingers curling in the shape of the
We make love from across the room. We laugh in the
of yellow mustard fields, then open our eyes to iced
and our eyes reflected in shop windows. Nobody is
The sun hangs like fruit, the shell of a half-forgotten
We kiss in the middle of language. We wake up tangled
in the middle
of a colonial hangover. We carve sonnets into parts of us
that others
won’t see, an overconfident bruise at the very base of
your neck, a
scared lovebite in the corner of a conversation. I meet
your parents
in a daydream. We code switch in the middle of sex. We
meet again
in a sea of white noise. There is nothing ancient enough
to carve
our names into and so we pick the earth & the wind &
the sea.
We hold hands after sunset. We make love again and this
our eyes meet. We kiss like fugitives on the run.

I ask forgiveness

from the moon for this decadence      for
breathing easy while blood spills
on lands that are mine & not mine
& ours & not our & for all of the lines
we draw in the shape of ribs      since birth
we are taught cage means protection means
survival means      breathing easy      means
if nobody hears a tree fall did it ever really

those who planted the seed & prayed
we would water      for the names I call the earth
    this home is as broken as any, basking
in the brilliance of a power-dizzy god
with more brains that it cares      to count, we
are brought to our knees before        beauty
before the changing seasons & the slice
of the ocean against land      the seed-planters remember
our unspoken promises they watch      the fires
we started they watch      us pray to nothingness &
who thought      our lungs needed saving
     my prayers are selfish things, folded inwards
I ask          may I please forget I am real for a moment

& I return year after year begging      forgiveness
for the weaknesses in me I call brilliance      I ask
the earth for understanding, the moon      for silence
     calling myself names reserved for kings, I ask
forgiveness for breathing easy in the shadow
of my luminescence, my          shattering
I am a thief, stealing mercy from the heavens
my bones in guilt over the earth      building altars to my

Umang Kalra is an Indian poet studying History in Edinburgh. She is the Poetry Editor at the Brown Orient, a literary journal platform for women and LGBTQ+ people from mainland and diasporic South, Southeast, Central, and Southwest Asia. Her work has previously appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Cotton Xenomorph,Vagabond City, Fallow Media, and others. She tweets @umangkalra__ and writes at

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