thantreyarts

Recent Work / Thinking

Your Skin (2022)

“Melanin is not your enemy”- Joy Crooks

Hating the sun was a learned attribute. I remember returningfrom a holiday, and a boy in

my class not recognising me because of the tan that hadkissed my skin. My mother ,

frustrated as she had tried to keep me shielded withparasols and hats, to prevent me

becoming too dark.

My mum’s skin was fair, olive at most when the sun wouldsweep it. A tan that Mums in

the playground would envy, a glow that radiated modestly. Ihave my father’s dark roast,

enriched with the rays, sweat dripping like dark chocolatestreams as we poured ourselves

into the sea.

When you are young and Brown, they try to stop you playingoutside. Girls must always be

careful. It is always different for girls.

For when we feel the warmth bestowed upon our cheeks by thesun, we enrich. The dark

pigment will tell people that our status and class, that ourhands must bare labour to

survive, a trait that is frowned upon by others. Our darkBrown skin doesn’t tick the boxes in

the survey when they try to find us a husband. Whiteness iswealth, whiteness is power, and

anything close to it is close enough.

Aunties and Mothers will plaster their cheeks withanti-agers, retinols, and skin bleach.

Fair and Lovely to keep the melanin at bay. They willcelebrate the fairness that coincides

with starvation and iron deficiencies, and they will instila fear of nature’s greatest feeder.

May bank holiday, I sat in a tent while the sun cooked mefrom the outside like a boil in the

bag rice. Layer after layer of factor 50, as though themelanin would be activated from steam alone. I proudly stated “I don’t want totan” to my white peers, as though it made

me closer to them in some way. Nightly routines of lemonjuice rubbed into my cheeks,

across my moustache and side burns. Constantly spending mychildhood erasing parts of me

in hope it would remove the otherness of being the token Pakifriend.

Doing anything and everything to create as much distancefrom my brownness as possible

and falling into a hole of misplaced identity that wouldtake years to climb out of. Parts of

myself would stay stuck in the hole, parts I do not know ifI can every reclaim to this day.

I was twenty when I fell in love with the sun. I accepted Iwas South Asian, and allowed the

melanin to thrive through my body. I grew back the hair thathad been ripped from my arms

and I allowed my shoulders to bathe in the warmth.

My largest organ has been nourished once more.

Ammi (2022)

When I was a child I loved being in the room with my motheras she completed her night-time routine. This won’t be a telling of a glamorousexotic woman who brushes her long silky hair one hundred strokes or bathes herlocks and skin in aromatic nourishing oils. This is a lightly tanned Brownwoman, with thinning, bobbed coils, and sagging breasts. Rough spikes and cheaprazor burnt legs, and modest pyjamas. This is the embodiment of a working-classwoman through the lens of a Brown girl.

My mum would unsuccessfully try to shrink herself, hidingthe folds of her stomach with her

work clothes from the day. I would lunge forward from myparent’s bed, desperate to trace

the purple-red dents around her back and shoulders with myfingers. When I close my

eyes now, I can feel the warm soft sensation of our skintouching. The hair on her torso is

fine and almost unnoticeable when I compare it to my own.

As my own body ages, I witness it transition through healingand recovery. My collar bones

and ribs have sunken back into their body, and my innerthighs find comfort in their

touching. My own softness has begun to resemble that of mymother’s. Nutrition once again

brings curls to my hair and folds to my stomach. I adorn mybody in colour and serotonin

inducing fabrics, that remind me of mothballs in thecupboards and suitcases of silk. Nani’s

gold hoops and bangles rest on my skin as they once didhers, and I run oil through my hair

as she once did for my mother.

Sometimes Mum fights with me, says I need to live within mymeans, live modestly. I

resemble a magpie drawn to the vibrant, loud, maximalistthings that glisten in the light. We

are very different. At twenty five had to provide a stablehousehold. A balanced world between traditional South Asian house wife, andmodern working woman. I like to believe she had a choice to have that life, butI know that the world had already set a course for her to take.

My very own, South Asian, working class hero.

Homesick on Eid

Im homesick

In a flat with my dogs 

And my lover 

But the smell from the kitchen

That wrestles with the extractor fan

And floats down the street 

Does not smell like home to me 

I want to wake up in the morning to sweet desserts and spices tickling the hairs in my nostril 

The doorbell to ring once or twice and it not be a delivery from an order I forgot I made 

A morning kiss and cuddle could never compete 

With a tight embrace over the shoulder one two three 

Tea and coffee rounds after every meal and in between

Uncle and dad coming home after their namaz 

And we hug one two three 

And we feast 

Scraping the last grains of rice that try to stay on the plate into our mouths 

Fingers running along the inside of the bowl to get every last drop 

This morning I don’t even get a text

I don’t know if it’s today or tomorrow 

Waking late to a meeting on the sofa 

My thighs fused with the plasticy cover beneath them 

I eat hash browns and bbq sauce while watching strangers travel the world 

And I cancel plans to fall into a habit I’ve spent years breaking

Climbing into an empty bed with my screen rotating through clips of strangers 

To make me howl with 15 second laughter 

And swipe

Swipe 

Swipe 

My mood swings to the far end of the spectrum 

I want wetness to fill my eyes 

But instead I frown 

Thinking it’s my flakiness or ruined plans 

But I’m just homesick on Eid 

Blue Box Blues

Maybe Derby’s not so bad

A room in Lewisham for a grand a month


I’m sat in a blue box

2.5 beds

1 bath

Garden.


Buildings growing taller around 

but I stay small

low to the ground

leaky window


1.35

under market value


I’m waiting for this email to come

for that one to become a two

Market value

market value of a blue box


social housing

buy it back

private social housing 

if you take the poor person out of the social housing does it become luxury?


US embassy

swimming pool

tube station

Clapham Common

market value

I’m having a crisis

who’s got a grand to spent on a bedroom anyway?

If the housing association are increasing rent I’ve got no hope with the private private housing


I’m in the private social housing

the private social blue box housing

the knock down the furniture shop to build luxury social housing housing

It’s still a council estate


with private social housing 

and young professionals from home counties

who’ve got a grand to spend on a room so anyway

the private social housing would rather they live here 

than aunty and uncle next-door 

and Kim the cat lady


I’m in the middle

with my private social housing 

under market value

working class but my parents own their home now

upper working class? lower middle class?

but I don’t have a grand to spend on a room


so when that one becomes a two I’m really

screwed

screwed because I have things in every room

screwed because I’ve become comfortable in a housing crisis

I missed the first wave that knocked my friends back to their parent’s 

I’ve settled in a temporary blue box that’s heading the same way as the furniture shop

but in the mean time they want to squeeze as much profit from this poor

blue box

and that means

market value 

and luxury housing.


Maybe Nottingham would be okay… 

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