• Nur Laili from ELEVEN

This treasure is not yours, but I hope you find it



Because somehow you fail to see

that the scarlet drops of my humanity cannot be divorced

from the earthen mud of my skin.

Because somehow

no matter how much I shovel and dust away

every grain of my melanin-tainted skin,

you’ve already zeroed in onto your target.

Can I blame you? X marks the spot

and you’d always cross the odd one out first.


Your spade clangs against the locked chest and I exhale, distraught,

metal hitting cold metal as you stand on my damp clumps of hurt.


I’ve lost the key but I know you have the tools needed.

Do not lie and tell me you have never tried to unlock

a mysterious yet distinct fictional character: pry them open

with your merciless pliers, you know which ones,

the same ones that would twist my flesh into an object of humiliation

by hammering it down with a callous “I can’t see you”.


I’ve lost the key but I still know what lies in there trumps

any solace your acceptance can give me.

I know that the bars of gold inside are woven in threads of my DNA

and glisten in every neutral-coloured cell on my face,

that the ringlets framing my face are not slides for your gorgonic mockery

but they build an aegis with volumes of hardened yet smooth resolve,

that rubies sparkle in every meal I have,

either in sprinkles and garnishes or a liquified condiment.

I will never let you take that from me, never again.


I’ve lost the key but I will still convey the rumours of the map,

and in fact, if I could, I would bestow the map upon you.

But I don’t think I will, because I know how you will desecrate the boundaries

with my own blood.


No, you need to find this map yourself.


Because you can only find this treasure should you first choose to accept the quest,

should you first concede that you will take years to find the complete treasure,

should you acknowledge that perils will come your way, especially if you speak of the taboo.


And I must tell you now, you will never be the treasure, nor should you ever aspire to own it.

These winds of arrogance will only propel you further from ever finding it. You can only join me

in digging it up and spreading the tale

till whispers of excitement and awe spiderwebs itself around the world

about the South Asian Jewel.


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