Mama’s Songs by Sanjana Bijlani

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


I try not to picture / my mother holding me / baby in her arms / still in love /
with round cheeks / cooing quiet songs / for my ears only / soft swirl of sound /
pierced unfamiliar / is she yours? / and mama smiles / never forgets her
manners / maybe nods proudly / and in her arms / I still am / unaware of her
return / to the girl / of lesser color / forced out of frame / easy to call
submissive / brown enough / to never be / beautiful / brave / not like her
mother / pale skin / I inherit / unnoticed till / but she’s not dark like you / and I
wonder / what song / calms her / as she stands / next to my father / just
married / his rosy pallor / aglow / her caramel skin / gentle gold / still / not
enough / to be her own light / to be more than / vessel of singular purpose / to
safely carry / in-between daughter to shore / deputized by elders’ whispers /
keep her / out of the sun / and I wonder / what song / mama swallows / to hold
me / love me / though I am unworthy / arms heavy / with the weight of a girl /
still / impossibly / hers / never knowing / what it means / to be / brave /
beautiful / brown / my mother / always scared / of losing me / to dreams / of
belonging / I have never wanted / with anyone but her / mama / of quiet songs /
and love without shame / she has yet to sing again.


Photo of Sanjana Bijlani by Sunil Bijlani.

Photo of Sanjana Bijlani by Sunil Bijlani.

Sanjana Bijlani writes to locate her experiences living in diaspora, between India and the United States, through imagined conversations, shared memories, and mix tapes.