Rita Mookerjee

Umbrella Girl, Diamond Street

Lightest of the cousins, her family smiles at New Year's: red
envelope, white hand, with a crow's foot and dark circles from reading
and sunchapped lips, but no brown on her cheeks
the umbrella kept her clean
because brown would be great-grandparents knee-
deep in field muck, brown would be butchering chickens
on wood slabs, brown would be the relocation
of continents: cha and chai both mean tea.

Brown reminds you, be a white Asian,
be a twinkie, a coconut, a rice
ball, a zebra cake, banana pudding,
do-better-with-headshots smirking down
ancestral family shrine, aren't you
so proud of me, incense poised, a pen
at the reception desk: write your English
name, not your family name, excusing yourself

from mixing with jungle Asians,
sand Asians, mud Asians, sweet and sour
sauce Asians, sesame Asians, Sesame Street
all of us who can't umbrella-duck our
way out of the side-comments
model minority takes the long
way home to buy rosewater and lemon
skips the fish market, the smell will linger.

Rita Mookerjee's poetry is featured or forthcoming in Hollow, Cosmonauts Avenue, Literary Shanghai and others. Her critical work has been featured in the Routledge Companion of Literature and Food, the Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory, and the Bloomsbury Handbook of Twenty-First Century Feminist Theory. She currently teaches ethnic minority fiction and women's literature at Florida State University where she is a PhD candidate specializing in contemporary Caribbean literature with a focus on queer theory. Follow her on Instagram @melanincholia.