For the nameless gay cousin uncle

“Don’t take it personally,” 
my sister, also queer, says with a tired sigh.
“You know how they are.”
You see, distant relative I don’t even know the name of, 
They were talking about you this night. 

Dear Uncle, I know you have a little brother
who's probably the pride of the family—
he has a job, and a wife,
and a respectable well-settled life;
You wore eyeliner to a shaadi
and danced to Baby Doll. 

Dear Uncle, I'd known long before this night
the hatred in the hearts of this family 
for all the people who are 'others'
This family that could be so caring and kind,
and I had somehow loved them through it all;
Now, I cannot talk to my maama
without hearing his mocking laugh, saying
"I'll tell you why he isn't married yet"
Cannot look at my maami without reading the subtext of
"Because he likes men."
Cannot even smile at my own mother 
without replaying her dramatic gasp at this odd alien creature.

Dear Uncle, you don't know I exist
I don't know who you are
Yet I still feel that hot red spot
in the middle of my forehead
that opened like a furious third eye this night
But did not wreck loose any fireballs
that set about the end of the world
like your mere existence did.

Dear Uncle, I do not know
whether your kohl-lined smolder
was your personal gay yell from the rooftop
Or your 'earth-shattering' dance
was your tandava, your middle finger
to the family which never treated you like one—
I may never know, either, 
you will never read this poem
and if you do, I hope it's not over 
our shared pained smiles of the aching bones
our khandaan gives us someday. 

Dear Uncle, forgive me, 
For I will never be as brave as you are,
I can make my boiling blood simmer
until it spills and screams in the private ink of these pages,
but I could not fight the words that were said
with the immense heat that built up inside my head
—I was exhausted, and scared, and alone
But those are no excuses: to be a silent observer
is to be a part of the crime.

I'm a criminal, dear uncle, as I sit writing
this angry gay poem behind bars
around my throat
my throat which learnt to choke on its own
soon after it managed to open up last year,
if only to itself;
And you are this criminal's muse, dear uncle,
You have fused
this black ace ring permanently to my finger now
this magical metallic bolt that lets the closet stay open
and closed at the same time.

I wish I could let you know
that I took it personally, dear uncle—
I did not know you existed until today
and though my cowardly hands 
did nothing to stop that machine gun,
It made this unprecedented Picasso mosaic of my bones
Perhaps, close to, what it would've made of you.

Dear Uncle, I know none of my words will ever be enough
and I'm a cynic who doesn't buy that telepathic connection shit
But for today, just for today,
I want to believe that I'm there with you in spirit
wherever you are,
that you may feel some unexplained warmth
in this cold, cold, cold of the dual atmospheres
That your brain might throw up a kind word
amidst all the slurs it keeps replaying. 

Dear Uncle, this is a really long shot
But I hope one day we gatecrash a wedding
and march on to the stage to proclaim:
"Yes, I'm a queer, I'm a freak, I'm a fag,
I've got mud on my face and I'm a big disgrace
and I will wave my banner and shout
until the stars above you tremble,"
And we will be in drag, dear uncle, 
a mass slaughter of this civilised family's collective brain;
and we will laugh at gay jokes together
when we get kicked out of the family,
Estranged from those who were strangers in the first place
Maybe I could be brave enough with you.

Dear Uncle, it should not be a big deal
I've heard worse, way worse, but it is
and your eyeliner and dance moves
should not be brave— it's been too long, they should be ordinary
But whatever it meant, it made you extraordinary,
extra-everything in the minds of the people
who cannot handle anything extra
beyond their narrow tunnel vision of their little frog-pond world,
Who do not give two shits about you
except when it comes to tittering
Tittering that will turn into jittering
flames of the torches they'll bring to burn our houses down,
But we will make our houses fireproof, dear uncle,
We will build them so they spit it right back
Spit rainbow-hued fire tornadoes
That will char the sky and this mob's faces
in the colours of the love they fear so much;
And we will
Take it personally.

2 thoughts on “For the nameless gay cousin uncle

  1. Let’s hear it for gay cousin uncles!
    This was raw and emotional. Thank you for sharing this. While I suspect this poem may be autobiographical, even if it isn’t, it still takes guts to put it all out there like this. Keep on keeping on, sister.

    Liked by 1 person

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