The Melanin Monologues: A Charlotte's Web - by Charlotte Raymond

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The Melanin Monologues:

Charlotte Raymond

The Melanin

MonologuesA Charlotte’s

Web Written by Charlotte Raymond Illustrated by Anita Hanna

Copyright Š Charlotte Laurasia Raymond 2018 No part of this book may be used our performed without written consent from the author. Raymond, Charlotte Laurasia 1st edition Art Work by Anita Hanna Edited By Steve Kirapolgou Author Photo by Brendan Bonsack To contact the author, e-mail

“so, here you are too foreign for home too foreign for here. never enough for both.� -Ijeoma Umebin d iaspora blues

The Melanin Monologues- A Charlotte’s Web Contents Privilege is a tap Mother Tongue Lactose intolerance is a rejection of white culture Black and white thinking Shattering the glass slipper The white noise continues after silent film My Purple Haze We’re here, we’re queer Narnia How to drape a sari Citrus and Sour Todos los dias es Navidad The Melanin Monologue Glossary About the Author Acknowledgements Testimonials

Privilege is a tap When you grow up privileged Racial oppression Feels like something that happens To other people Until microaggressions Become the anchor That washes away this belief

And p u l l s y o u d o w n

i n t o the ocean.

Mother Tongue Our mothers saw That a future brighter than theirs Lay before us. So they cut off their tongues, Holding babies under their breast And b r e a t h i n g in an air of New Beginnings.

They sensed that their words In our mouths Would brand us as different. But they were blinded to the loss That we would feel In words left unspoken, Languages packaged UP Sealed away And stored in attics Collecting d ust.

Sometimes her syllables would Slip Down Stairwells In her anger In her FRENZY In her yearning for home. Still her vintage linguistic Was rendered useless In our domain. No space for it in this hom e up against Only walls built This futile hand-me-down Far less useful Than the apparel of our older siblings Far less practical Than the skills of Building a better life. Not all mothers Will choose to

Cut off their tongues. Still it is important To understand Why some do.

Some mothers do not realise The value of their voice Some are taught to believe That they have none.

My mother speaks

Five languages And I wish to reach At least halfway Of the strength Of her linguistic pathway That she has paved With the compilation of Consonants and vowels That roll off her tongue. Now her bloodline

Haemorrhages in my hands As I grasp At the parts of her She cut off for us. I tell her Ingat at the door At the world cries Putang ina m o! I tell her Mahal kita, salamat po. I tell her That her tongue Is my

tongue also

And she may speak it

as loudly Or as quietly

As she so wishes. And that regardless of what She chooses, O gino ako, O gino ako, I hear her.

Lactose intolerance is a rejection of white culture You could say that we’re like the fox and the hound. You see, my best friend of 19 years Eats meat in every meal, Attends church every Sunday, Never curses, And seldom drinks. Yet she will share a meal With this vegan, Burlesque dancing Bisexual Sitting on the pews of Naked for Satan. I know that in food we Still find our common ground Built in sand pits And lunchboxes. She has taught the value of good falafel Shown me that what’s microwaved or gentrified Is riddled with sin. She knows that dal is As darling to me as the days In dark classrooms we spent together. Our differences apart, We share the common truth That fine lines are drawn In digesting bloodlines And whilst meals are meant to be shared but

Cultures are not built to Serve tongues That deny the tongues Of our mothers.

Black and White Thinking

ÂżWhy is it? that even in the movies of my mind I cast myself as the maid instead of

the starring role?

Shattering the glass slipper My mother would have called me Cinderella Yet she has no time for fairy tales. My mother is Filipino yet She is no Imelda Marcos. My mother is 4’11�. Her

tiny frame

curls even smaller when she bends down to help others to their feet. My mother is hardworking and meticulous seldom taking a moment to put up her feet. My mother has fire in her voice when needed, A gift I have gracefully inherited. What do we make of the f l i i n n e e s between cultural inclusion and yellow fever? What do we make of the love aff airs betw een the Global South and the affluent


What do we make of the commodification of women in a globalised world, The servitude of women instilled in ethnic girls? What do we make of a people who takes on more than they can bare? Domestic work Domestic abuse A smaller piece of the cake that’s shared? When you are a nurse, a nanny or maid, You accept the hands that you are played. You accept that emotional labour, Is not something that is paid.

My mother may be wife, mother, and nursing assistant, but she is also woman,


fire, and


My mother is the Cinderella who hems the dress and scrubs the floors, and the woman who dances till midnight in layers of sparkle and silk. When you meet a woman like my mother Grant her a fairy god m other, Grant her a songbird. Make us the mice that come to her aid Make us the mice that acknowledges her worth. Find her a glass slipper. Let her know she

is royalty.

She may not wear it long But let her know this; That shoe does fit.

The white noise continues after the silent film The book described her with black hair, grey eyes and olive skin, And yet the woman on the big screen looks nothing like my kin. Tonto belonged to a Native American tribe, Yet Johnny Depp recited his lines. Katherine Hepburn as much as I love her, Did not have a Chinese mother. Cleopatra, an Egyptian Queen, Played by Liz Taylor on the big screen. As Audrey Hepburn walks through the room, Mick Rooney's impression fills me with gloom. It's in 'Othello', 'Aloha' and Jesus Christ, The belief that these players must be white. If scripts were rewritten, I’d now have a part Streaming these caramel colours Across silver screen art.

My purple haze

Breaking news You seem to be confused This process of interrogation Your borderline racist statements Seem perplexed By the correlation Of the woman you are facing And a name that’s Clearly Caucasian But let me tell you a thing or two To set the record s t r a i g h t.

I am purple. A combination of reds and blues, And though the hues Aren’t equal Or Vibrant in their concentration They swirl Into my world Of Caramel.

When I tell you that Español is my second tongue Don’t assume it’s been spoken Since I was young That H i s p a n i c blood must Run through my veins That I Couldn’t have learnt it For personal gain. ‘But then,

Where are you really from?’ Mate, I’m from Victoria. My mother’s name Is Victoria. And I slid, Through the lips of her vulva Onto the pathway of success.

You’re quite well spoken For someone of your kind And there you are Reminding me That if you close your eyes And listened to the colours of my words That the face you see before you Is not the same one that you heard. Now I won’t deny that The colonisers’ blood runs Thicker through my veins More than my cultural misidentity could proclaim But I am

not your coconut,

Coffee stained shell and White inside My insides, Wonder what part My intersectional journey Has in my success. Were my name less white Would I have less?

My insides Wonder whether it’s okay For me to identify with a Woman of colour

Several shades and continents A p a r t from mine

Because what place does my Biracial Bisexual Borderline, mistaken for bipolar identity have In this world anyway? My insides Are the simultaneous churning Of biryani and pancit canton So bite into this. I am Sri Lankan Burgher,

A combination of Eurasian flavours That hardly savours In the .2% of us that Still exist In the Fernandez and Vanderwerts In a world of Jayawardenas and Pereras

I am the cultural d y s p h o r i a of Filipino women. I am more than the Slits of my eyes I am somehow Not Asian enough.

And though these thick thighs Don’t run on my mother’s side You need not Compartmentalise The parts of me That interweave in unions Not of your choosing. I am not part r e d Part b l u e.

I am purple. And nothing rhymes With purple.

We’re here, we’re queer that’s painted a rainbow with so For much colour I’ve never seen something so white.

Somewhere in parading all those shades They forgot that /brown and black\ Are a part of the rainbow too.

You’ll find me living in Narnia

He asked me, why my colours don’t shine as brightly as hers.

Hers arched over valleys, Cascaded across cities Mine speckled in f r a g m e n t s under UV lights in dimly lit bars.

I told him, that no two people could stand in the exact same spot, and See the exact same spectrum of colour at any given time. You can never see all the colours and mine just don’t shine so brightly. Between these yellows and caramels, I guess you’ll only see pastels. But I wear a blue that fades to black. I wear a heart that bleeds the red of ||slaughter|| A sadness left behind in the wreckage of conquerors and colonisers A vintage shade of blue

Passed d o w n from my mother and her mother and her mother. I wear a blue of languages l o s t and left unspoken I wear the

red of a heart that longs for a home,

that renders me homeless. She parades her colours, We store ours away, Like secrets swept under rugs, Skeletons in closets. So it’s no secret that you would find me living in Narnia When I wore a technicolour coat they saw that as biblical Not quite political The lines Of my ||b i s e x u a l i t y|| Broken in their reality They saw this as an ode to Joseph. When I wore my lover’s combat boots And her flannelette shirt My mother’s face filled with a smile Her heart filled with pride But not the pride I’d defined

With that upside-down rainbow. She saw m y colours d ifferently I reminded her of rice fields I reminded her of farming yields. I reminded her of home. She saw my colours differently. When he wore glitter in his brows, She saw that as s w e a t trickling down my face A black cascade for the constellations she had dreamed upon Before she came here My mother wears polarised sunglasses She cannot see my queer.

Call it a moonbow. Call it specks of p a s t e l s under UV lights, Laced with mother’s yellow and my father’s caramel. Call it

our shades of blue, arched into a frown.

Call it whatever comes after rain. Call it what doesn’t come out at midday. Call it what arched behind fur coats, and A-line skirts. Call it colours in closets.

How to Drape a Sari Step I Grab the largest piece of cloth you can find Make sure it is colourful You are always colourful Parade the yellow mustard dal Coconut sambal glazed as fringing Flavours like these Make colours like you Easier to digest Step Two Stand tall and fold the fabric into straight pleats Stay in line Your father’s family had to prove their percentage of European heritage to come to this country

Stay in line Your father’s family barely speaks Sinhala. Coming with his white passing family with their white sounding names my father would shake his said no to say yes

Stay in line My father sounds of British articulation from drinking colonised cups of tea

Stay in line My father is always proving his loyalty to here

Stay in line Immigrants must always keep proving their loyalty to here

Step Three Stand tall and drape the fabric at your navel. Your stomach churns with the guilt of your privilege Sri Lankan Burghers were second in charge to the coloniser You hold this

Your pure blood Lankan friend Tells you you are not ||L a n k a n|| in her eyes That this technically Eurasian blend is hard for her to swallow But the compilation of Scottish Portuguese Dutch and Swiss Traces so far back it does not register in this So let me drape the layers of my lineage Around me And know that this belly will carry babies Whom are rightfully Lankan also.

Step Four If ever you figure out those goddamn pleats Drape the paluu over your shoulder Wear it like a sash Feel it like a blanket That cradles you home

You will not wear it often But when you do It will remind you of string hoppers and warm vadas It will remind you of Sigiriya rock Of when you saw the Perahera parade in Kandy Of when the locals at Dehiwala zoo saw your blue And took photos of you The man in the mansion in the mountains Recognises your family name Tells you he knows your grandfather You smile You may never learn to correctly drape a sari But like the rivers that flow through highlands

These colours

and this culture will always

flow through you.

Citrus and Sour My grandfather played the piano accordion, With my grandmother he’d harmonise his snores. Now his hands are always shaking, And she remains no more. You may have heard about the oranges. The ones Whole Foods packaged in plastic And the internet was reactive To the notion that something so natural Could actually be reduced To a commodity made of juices Without skin in all its looseness Bare to the world With the sweetness it would bring. Now you will not hear me sing, Those lazy bourgeoisie. And I know it comes as a surprise that Even an ethical enterprise Would bear in mind The truth that I find That lies within this Abomination.

But it is valid.

I understand the environmental degradation, But I too understand the alleviation That to a person with a disability Who lacks certain mobility With hands of fragility Might seek this utility For what lacks in agility The fruit bears a facility Plants the seeds of tranquillity Of new possibility. But ableist nobility Reacts with hostility Because somehow futility Is all that is held. Disability is defined by society’s accommodation to such needs. You may sometimes read the words Disabled person But I have my aversion To this arrangement of words. As a social worker I’m perplexed by such murmurs Because in my mind it’s not hard to see Not a disabled person But a person Disabled by our society.

Pre-peeled oranges will hardly heal What 56 years of life, love and fears Would surely collate. But I will not berate A move that locates That ||s e e d s|| are often found where no one can reach. That skin is often thick And society thicker. Cherry tomatoes sold in plastic coffins, The abundance of plastic bags. Then berate a facility That aids disability And no outrage at stairs over ramps.

So package the orange, lemons, and limes, Cast away the peel. Hold our hands as sentiments sour, At what has been repealed. My grandfather played the piano accordion, With my grandmother he’d harmonise his snores. Now his hands are always shaking, And she remains no more.

Todos los dias es Navidad Twas the night before Christmas and all through the white house Lurked an impending doom, a fear to arouse. And I guess it probably seems conflicting For us all to be inflicting The spirit of merriment, good tidings and joy to the world, When it feels the world is coming to an end. a Capitalist construction of pagan tradition inundated with Western religion probably feels a bit like your job. You work hard all year and all the credit goes to the big guy in the suit. It’s hard to hold onto the tw elve d ays of Christm as

When the twelve ribs of our human body are beaten by bullets and bashes made of hate When twelve years a slave doesn’t ||f e e l|| so yesterday When the twelfth hour doesn’t feel too far away When the hands that once held us together are moving back in time.

However, there is no room for Grinches and Scrooges in my life. You see my grandmother was Christmas And I will not diss this festive season And instead keep on believing In giving gifts of hope and good fortune In fighting supremacy at its core.

She held out her hands to help others and quietly carried her own struggle.

She held her strength in her heart and in the beat

of her song and when her heart stopped beating the beat of her song played on. On the day of her death When she took her last breath I was o c e a n s apart But somehow in my heart It must have felt her passing Must have heard the herald angels harking I didn’t know why I was singing Jingle Bells in April

And when I climbed down the Swiss Alps And heard of the news I was no longer confused

So now I hold onto her m e m o r y in snowflakes Hold onto her spirit in bottles of gin and Christmas pudding Within this politics That we just can’t dismiss I know it’s hard to feel bliss When it feels like the eternal winter is coming. But if the winter does come, our voices will rise And I will find her strength in the snowflakes That catch upon my tongue. There will be no Silent Night in protests and proclamation of Peace to all on earth. The piano that plays of the twelve Christmas days is not firewood yet. Snowmen melt in the summertime. When fir trees wilt and the Christmas lights come down I will still be here with bells on my ears and carols at my tongue.

If they try to bury me alive I’ll remind them w e are seed s We will build bridges where they build walls I will keep on singing oh Holy Night. Trump may be dreaming of a white Christmas but I am still here. Trump may be dreaming of a white Christmas but

we are still here.

The Melanin Monologues ||How do you tell your teenage self to stop drinking those bottles of bleach?|| The lacerations left behind by Dove’s latest racist ad campaign Slices its way through layers of caramel and chocolate skin. And apologies may be made, We did not endeavour hate But this nation knows all too well of e m p t y apologies to People of Colour. ‘The diversity of real beauty is core to our beliefs’ But this core is only skin deep This core is the rotten apples laced with poisoned tongues Words washed away with the same soap used to Scrub away at our skin. Have you heard of ‘Nulla Nulla’ soap It was ‘Australia’s white hope’ Soap scrubbed the black from this nation’s skin Through ethnic cleansing we’ve killed our kin. The white dove sneers at us as though we’re pigeons Claims ‘This is diversity’ When all we feel is adversity Dove’s corporate cousin Fair and lovely Stocks supermarket shelves across the globe. There is nothing fair in genocide Nothing fair in the racial barometer that determines Who is worthy and who is not

Nothing fair in claims to crack through Coconut husk skin to ooze the white That lies inside Nothing fair in the hands that tan in the sun squeezing the bottles of bleach upon our skin. Sun kissed s e a s of the Philippines Cascade every colour under the sun Yet every billboard on every road Lacks the magandang morena girl So I ask you What the Beckery is this shit? How are we so complacent to this? Leaving the white prints on our face From those who tried to slap us into place This skin is not mud splashed on our faces From the stomping feet of the conquistador This skin is not yours to fetishise This skin is not yours to demoralise

We will decolonise and moisturise This Skin Does Not

Come Off And I am tired of always being a dark cascade to a sea of twinkling white stars

There is no market for your type Your face and words are all the same I’m sure we did all we could do To try and acknowledge you Yet somehow , When Rihanna released 40 shades in her Foundation collection New faces entered Sephora’s reflections Hoping to get a better inspection Of colours that matched to our complexion After years of beauty counter retrospection Scanning colour palettes with circumspection Hand and product made no connection Hearts pumped blood laced with dejection Of an entire industry’s outright rejection Of us

It feels like colour correction When you are shade tw enty-one Instead of the only one Who wriggles their way Into whatever shade of tan they have available that day. It feels like antiseptic for the lacerations that seek to drain The melanin from our skin.

If feels like hands reaching out to teenage coloured girls Pulling the white masks off of their faces And crying,

My darling, You are magandang morena, A beautiful brown skinned girl You need not drink Those bottles of bleach Anymore.

Glossary Ingat- Careful Putang ina mo- Fuck you Mahal Kita-I love you Salamat -thankyou Po- a term of respect for an elder O gino ako- oh my god Burgher- a small Eurasian ethnic group in Sri Lanka descended from Portuguese, Dutch, British and other Europeans who settled in the island. Fair and Lovely- A skin lightening cosmetic product Borderline- Borderline Personality Disorder Fernandez and Vanderwerts- Common Sri Lankan Burgher surnames Pancit Canton- A Filipino rice noodle dish Coconut sambal- a side dish served with curry consisting of coconut, chilli, tomato and onion Sinhala- one of the national languages of Sri Lanka Pallu- The loose end of a sari Sigiriya- an ancient 200m rock fortress located in Sri Lanka Perahera- A Buddhist festival of the tooth located in Kandy Dehiwala- A suburb in Colombo, Sri Lankan Nulla nulla- A soap product from the advertised in the early 20th century stating it would wipe the dirt from Aboriginal skin Magandang morena- Beautiful brown skinned woman Beckery- A white woman's offense to the promotion and solidarity of women of colour

About the Author

Charlotte Raymond is a Melbourne born and bred poet. First discovering poetry whilst living in Madrid, she later found a place for poetry in her heart and home in Melbourne. She uses poetry to help understand and process her emotions, using her words and performance to explore her experiences. Born to a Filipino mother and Sri-Lankan Burgher father, her work focuses on the intersections of identity, the integration of culture, and the emotions that manifest in dissecting a multi-faceted identity. She has performed features at poetry events across Melbourne including Griffi n Speak , Mother Tongue and Girls on Key. Winner of three Slamalamadingdong competitions and Griffin Slam 2017, she has also featured for 2016 APS Champion Arielle Champion and international performing duo A Thousand Promises. Her work has been published in DJed Press, a publication dedicated to publishing people of colour.

Acknowledgements For ma, a woman I am only starting to know, appreciate and understand, whose story has inspired many of these works, salamat po.

To Anita, I am eternally grateful for your art. Thank you for being ferociously proficient in your work. Thank you by extension to my favourite comrade, the hound to my fox Rita, for lending me your sister’s gifts. To Tasfia, for inspiring to put together a compilation. Thank-you for sharing your voice. To Melinda, for your undying support and appreciation.

To DJed Press, for being a platform for me to share my stories To Sharifa, thank you for your friendship, your heart, your words and your hugs.

For the stories otherwise left untold

...her poetry is beautifully visceral and moving. In my personal favourite, ‘Mother Tongue’, the language is poignant in its simplicity, visual, and powerful. I think this is part of the migrant experience that isn't talked about very often, yet is something a lot of children of migrants can relate to, myself included.—Hella Ibrahim, editor of DJed Press

Your work has exploded and the quality is consistently amazing. You don't just wear your heart on your sleeve, you leave it dissected on the page and present it to us as an offering. Laying yourself bare, your words paint an incredible picture of rawness

and beauty in vulnerability– Melinda Heinze, poet, musician Mother Tongue" quickly stood out because of its play on rhythm, the important message it carries and Charlotte's beautiful voice. – Claudia, dancer, performance collaborator

Charlotte writes the kind of poetry that not only grabs you, it vividly immerses you into her experience– Sharifa Tartoussi—poet

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