Stigma: The Burden on My Back

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Gary

A poem about shame and honour in South Asian families in Newton

I can’t help but wonder: What if they all knew?
Would they laugh at me? What would people do?

I brought shame to my family, is that what they would say?
Would they leave my side, or would they decide to stay?

I ruined my family’s honour? Is that what they would think?
Would they help keep me afloat, or would they let me sink?

When they look over, what will people see?
That is yet another question that stops me from being me.

These are the kinds of questions that have been placed upon my back
The burdens of sharam and izzat that I carry in a sack.

But today I’ll do something different, today I’ll take a break
For once I’ll put the sack down, and I know what’s at stake.

The sack is sitting there, wide open for everyone to see
But something else has happened—from these burdens I’m now free.

Suddenly I can breathe easier, as the sack stays on the ground
I can see some of their lips moving, but I refuse to hear the sound.

No longer will I be a slave to my fears,
I have no further need to carry the sack.
I am the me that I want to be,
No longer will I have that burden on my back.

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