Christine Ratnasingham

Chris­tine Rat­nas­ing­ham is a Syd­ney based writer and poet, who was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Eng­land and Aus­tralia. She has had her poetry pub­lished in con­ver­sa­tions, Extem­pore and Hypal­lage, and was awarded the HB Hig­gins Schol­ar­ship for Poetry from the Uni­ver­sity of Melbourne.

 

 

The For­eigner

Like a lit­tle bird, one you’ve never
seen before, who appears to have acci­den­tally
flown in
           through a slightly open win­dow
           and into an enclosed instal­la­tion, enlarged
with peo­ple busily peck­ing at their own
and other people’s lives – flock­ing, talk­ing, neck­ing
laugh­ing
          obliv­i­ous to what has just
          hap­pened. You’ve seen it, but you’re
paral­ysed with hope­less­ness. What can you
do? She’s too fast to catch, filled with
moments
           of panic, then still­ness. And you watch
           her, real­is­ing that now, only sec­onds later
this furi­ously flap­ping bird
once fright­ened, now seems … okay, quite happy
in fact
           explor­ing her sur­rounds, mak­ing the most
           of the sit­u­a­tion – nib­bling at crumbs
jump­ing around feet, mov­ing along with the crowd
blend­ing in, and it seems that even if you
wanted
          to help her back out­side, you may
          frighten her more, and per­haps
even be going against her will, and so
all you can now do is sim­ply watch, slightly
amused
          who’s to say she doesn’t belong
We all do
          don’t we?

 

Dark skin

I for­get I have it, until I remem­ber my child­hood
when nearly every stu­dent felt they needed
to remind me that I was not of their whiteness 

I for­get it clothes me, until I leave home
and catch pho­to­graphic glimpses in bus win­dows
and ad hoc reflec­tions, remind­ing me 

I for­get it owns me, until I’m asked where
I’m from, for I can’t be from here?
But from some­where else, a place I don’t really
know and that has for­ever branded me

I for­get its beauty, until I see it on other
bod­ies that carry it with dig­nity
or when they are clothed to cel­e­brate
their difference

Only one of my many parts, yet mostly, the first
one you’ll see when you look at me

I for­get, then remem­ber
I own my

dark skin