on privilege

the day woke up in a frenzy of skin and blood,
all seemingly smeared on my brown face,
chiding me for my ignorance
of the lasting night, right at the corner
of my right eye —

my language is my privilege, my middle-
class ceiling stays intact, when i write
expressions of winds, sands, waters,
and the colours of a long shadow-day,
pink and solid like my nourished lips —

fast-zooming trains, urban nests, household
cocoons, lean structures of dismay and out-
rage, candled fingers that lighten only when
the tragedy strikes (in the night), otherwise
bursting in sparks of joys, niceties on my face
already stuck to the habit of staying okay
in my standardized refuge.

my crotch carries the perpetrated legacy
of privilege — my age, my dreams & drinks,
my spirits & hopes, my vices & words,
my feet, my spine, all alive to my language,

but

all is not right in the day, my brown is matched
with my queer displays of impropriety and
a tapestry of unwanted touches,
of attacked liberties —

i keep my labels ready at the skin beneath
the skin, and i know that i can acknowledge
that all is not fucking okay,

that your uncomfortable reasoning and
my unrelenting ease at arguing would
stand and obtain the sermons
of a higher power,

but what of those realities we deem
so convenient to forget?
can sullied expressions overcome
the systematic dampening
of outcomes?

the majority’s stake is well known, we have built
testimonies and legacies at/to this well-regarded space,

but god damn it, all is not okay,
all is not okay.

my privilege is another’s struggle
for survival,

my privilege bites the suns into
halves and quarters of sorrows
& of nights that flourish through
the wakeful day.

.
© Anmol Arora

For my upcoming prompt at dVerse Poetics: On Privilege. Also linking it up with The Tuesday Platform at WRT, where I am hosting this week as well. Come, join us for the poetics and the discussions on both these platforms.
As a biological man in early 20s, belonging to a savarna Hindu family, with no apparent physical or mental disabilities, I enjoy a lot of privileges in a systematically oppressive society. My brown skin, my queerness, my atheism, and my unconventional believes stick out sometimes in a world (my country and state as physical spheres of my experience) obsessed with certain skin colours and religions and the strictures of patriarchy and heteronormativity. I enjoy the privilege of living in an urban setting with its social and physical infrastructure and its proximity to institutions of power, which mostly shields my “vulnerabilities” from violence and repression. Most importantly, all these privileges have amounted for this privilege of language that I enjoy and utilize freely for my expression.

31 thoughts on “on privilege

  1. I read your poem and then read the notes, Anmol, which I then referred back to the poem. It was interesting for me to try to understand privilege through your eyes, seeing as I am a white, British middle-aged woman. I can understand how your unconventionality sticks out but have different experiences in my own life. I like the way you express all this in the lines:
    ‘my language is my privilege, my middle-
    class ceiling stays intact, when i write
    expressions of winds, sands, waters’;
    ‘all is not right in the day, my brown is matched
    with my queer displays of impropriety and
    a tapestry of unwanted touches’;
    and
    ‘my privilege bites the suns into
    halves and quarters of sorrows
    & of nights that flourish through
    the wakeful day’.

    Like

  2. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Excellent example to illustrate your prompt. I, too, like the final stanza, where the teeth, the bite resides. I think we will produce some interesting views of privilege
    within our international multi-racial fellowship.

    Like

  3. I really like this part: my privilege is another’s struggle
    for survival.

    I grew up in Asia so I am familiar with class mentality that is equated with wealth, opportunities and family ties. It is hard to break free from that label and chain, with everyone saying that your life is this way, and not that way. It takes a great deal of courage to speak, that all is not okay, and that you deserve better.

    A poem that speaks to me HA! Thanks for hosting our dVerse prompt.

    Like

  4. Your articulation is skilled. I like the way you started out with the privileges “but” serves a perfect segue. Please correct me if I didn’t get it right but I see you saying you have a lot of good things in your world but it does not cancel out all of the bad stuff, the way you need to tread carefully to stay safe.

    Like

  5. sanaarizvi says:

    This is exquisitely drawn, Anmol! ❤️ Being poets we possess the privilege to articulate and express more freely than others, I for one never cease to admire your way with words 🙂 Especially love this part; “my language is my privilege, my middle-class ceiling stays intact, when i write expressions of winds, sands, waters,
    and the colours of a long shadow-day, pink and solid like my nourished lips.” Arz kia hai…

    “Ishrat-e-qatra hai dar’ya main fanaa ho jana,
    Dard ka haad se guzarna hai dawa ho jana.”

    Keep writing like this and you are soon to become one of the unforgettables! 🙂

    Like

  6. Jim says:

    You are privileged and I’m glad for you. In the U.S. we have no formal divisions but wealth or the lack of it separates us, and then education and race also divides. My great grandfather stood off a lynching mob with his shotgun. He had a German name and accent and our country was at war with Germany.
    I lived in El Paso, Texas, for five years while I was in the Army. The city was about half of Mexican and Spanish descent, i.e. Hispanic as we now call that mixture. The rest were mainly White Caucasian. All treated the other with respect, dignity, and acceptance. The city is still that way even though our president brags that he himself fixed the problem with a wall but there was no problem to begin with.
    “but
    all is not right in the day, my brown is matched…” shows the problem mingling with work, schools, et al. Not good. We have to some extent that also, in varying degrees. I have a son-in-law who is half Indian (country) and half Spanish (from Venezuela). He is rather dark and is from Trinidad. No problematic situations I know of. Nor by the wife of a son, she is from Venezuela. Also a half Black great granddaughter who is married to a white fellow. Again I think all is well.
    None of this changes anything with you except to show diversity doesn’t always have to cause segregation during the day either.
    THANK YOU FOR HOSTING, I like what you unwrapped.
    ..

    Like

  7. There is always that conflict of contradiction between us and others around us.
    You have shown it well in your poem! I liked this piece…

    but what of those realities we deem
    so convenient to forget?
    can sullied expressions overcome
    the systematic dampening
    of outcomes?

    Like

  8. i keep my labels ready at the skin beneath
    the skin, and i know that i can acknowledge
    that all is not fucking okay… this is very well written, Anmol… this poem feels like the beginning of an exploration – we all try to find our label and where we fit in, rightly or unfairly- you’ve articulated it better than most.

    Like

  9. I always find it difficult to comment on your poetry, Anmol, because although I get the general drift, the exact sense of the words escapes me. Reading your biography I get a better idea of what you’re saying and I can see that you are in a very precise and uneasy position, cushioned from the worst of it by (relative) wealth and the fact of being a man. I think we share similar ideas, that life is complicated, privilege is obscure and many-angled, and in the end, money sorts out most problems. Thanks for hosting a subject that many people don’t feel concerned by.

    Like

  10. Your poem digs into the hidden landscape of privilege, that in every culture there are haves and have-nots, a rich system of dominance and submission that winds around our very words. And this: Is any verbal project doomed from the outset because words are the very pillars of dominion & pits of subjection? I can see my white-boy privilege easily, but what about the human privilege over nature that is destroying the world?

    Like

  11. Thick-skinned, thin-skinned, skin deep — all subject to privilege, as you illustrate so well here. Especially with “in my standardized refuge” and “i keep my labels ready at the skin beneath the skin…”

    Like

  12. Thanks For this dVerse Prompt “HA” for ‘How Anxious’
    For Truly What i See Coming From An iLLusTrious
    History of Anxiety About So Many things
    in Life Is What A Privilege Life is
    Fear Free From All
    iLLuSory Fears
    And What Lust
    For Life Comes
    When Loving Life
    Free of All iLLusory
    Fears my FriENd Spoon
    Fed as a Prescription of Fear
    Almost From the First Spoon of Birth
    Away from Free that Comes From all the
    Clothes of Culture That Take us Away From
    Wings the Flight of Eagle our Birthright to Remember
    And Take
    Back
    as Life..
    This Fear Free
    Privilege is not without
    Cost for one Must Self-Advocate
    For this Privilege now in Wearing all
    The Colors of our Authentic Selves
    Without Fear Standing Up Tallest
    For the
    Soul
    Within
    to: Express
    For all of What
    We Can And Will Come to Be..
    For True too those who may Seem
    to Have all the Privilege from Gaining
    ‘The World’ May Gain The Greatest Booby
    Prize of All As Even So-Called Leader of
    the ‘Free World’ in Prison of Towers and
    Pyramids Higher So Much Higher
    as Lower Than Fearless Love
    To Give and Share
    Receiving
    the
    Intrinsic
    Reward of
    Fearless Love Free..
    The Gift With No Cultural Clothes..
    Yes.. the Greatest Privilege to Give And Share Love..:)

    Like

  13. Just Barry says:

    That is one hell of an opening stanza. Really grabbed my attention.

    I also liked how you weighed your own privilege vs the sad fact of your marginalization.

    This is gripping… and the ending..

    my privilege is another’s struggle
    for survival,

    my privilege bites the suns into
    halves and quarters of sorrows
    & of nights that flourish through
    the wakeful day.

    Well-reasoned and artfully written.

    Like

  14. “but god damn it, all is not okay,
    all is not okay.”
    Oh how I do agree with you Anmol. It is all so fucking “not” ok that I feel only anarchy in the United States can open the door again to seek balance.

    Like

  15. Bone-cutting song to your mix of privilege and oppression – these two stanzas rocked me:

    all is not right in the day, my brown is matched
    with my queer displays of impropriety and
    a tapestry of unwanted touches,
    of attacked liberties —

    i keep my labels ready at the skin beneath
    the skin, and i know that i can acknowledge
    that all is not fucking okay,

    Thank you for these words, these thoughts.

    Like

  16. Kestril Trueseeker says:

    I felt every word of this, in every melanated cell of my Latinx skin. I’m middle class in the US and straight. There are days I’m reminded of my privilege – and I don’t mind it because I need to be aware of it to do the work that is required. But I can’t help but rage, even if it’s quietly, when I see those with a higher level of privilege who when they are asked to unpack how they might add to a problem (even if only inadvertently) deflect and deny, offering their so-called generosity in allowing the less privileged some very visible while very mute space in their bubble as proof that they are infallible angels who must never be questioned. The best is when they try to make themselves the object of pity, when all that was asked of them was to consider the impact of their actions.

    Oh yeah I have feelings about this. Lots.

    Like

  17. “but what of those realities we deem
    so convenient to forget?”
    and
    “my privilege is another’s struggle for survival”

    These particular lines resonate with me. A controversial issue….with many words from poets across the globe attesting to the different perspectives it provokes.

    Like

  18. You are quite right – all is not okay. Racism, gender bias, and the treatment of people with disabilities are things I acutely aware for they are experienced by members of my own family. From my point of view I feel we all need to put aside our differences and come together through our own commonality of being human. It is only when we accept each other on that level that the society we live can become a better place.

    Like

  19. priscillaking says:

    I like this.

    I think it’s the way more writers would relate to the idea of privilege if more of us were honest. You’re “queer” but have the privilege of choosing to publicize that; many don’t. I’m penniless but have the privilege of choosing to grow old in my own home, among my own extended family, some of whom are rich; many don’t. And of course we don’t want or intend to give up the privileges of literacy, Internet access, time (at least scraps of time) to write, even having people assume we’re careless or eccentric or even drunk but not criminally minded if we make even major mistakes…I don’t think we should give up those privileges. Just extend them to the rest of humankind.

    Liked by 1 person

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