In a White Town

by Daljit Nagra

In a White Town

She never looked like other boys’ mums.

No one ever looked without looking again

at the pink kameez and balloon’d bottoms,


mustard oiled trail of hair, brocaded pink

sandals and the smell of curry. That’s why

I’d bin the letters about Parents’ Evenings,


why I’d police the noise of her holy songs,

check the net curtains were hugging the edges,

lavender spray the hallway when someone knocked,


pluck all the gold top milk from its crate

in case the mickey-takers would later disclose it,

never confessing my parents’ weird names


or the code of our address when I was licked

by Skin-heads (by a toilet seat)

desperate to flush out the enemy within.


I would have felt more at home had she hidden

that illiterate body, bumping noisily into women

at the market, bulging into its drama’d gossip,


for homework – in the public library with my mates,

she’d call, scratching on the windows. Scratching again

until later, her red face would be in my red face,


two of us alone, I’d strain on my poor Punjabi,

she’d laugh and say I was a gora, I’d only be freed

by a bride from India who would double as her saathi.


Nowadays, when I visit, when she hovers upward,

hobbling towards me to kiss my forehead

as she once used to, I wish I could fall forward.