‘A’ Is Not for Apple

By Shruti Mistry

If I should have a daughter,
I’ll make sure she knows her alphabet like the back of her hand. She’ll learn that
A is not for apple
B is not for bumble bee
C is not for crow, or car, or calling out mum’s name when you’re in a
D, which is not for dilemma, instead, she’ll learn that
E is for equity, and that it doesn’t equal equality, instead
equity is
F, it is fair, and my daughter, will learn to
face her friends, tell them why
Farris gets fifty more minutes
for his math test, and sometimes they will
G, generalize her gender, her worth, maybe she won’t be “feminine enough,” pink bubble gum lips, swooning with grace feminine enough to be a woman? She is not
H, a hazard, if she decides to play
hockey, no, she will not take a slapshot to your belief system and
I, I remember, my mother’s eyes when I took a glance at the ties in the boys section
I remember, how I was conditioned, micromanaged to pluck arm hairs 
I remember the injuries, the scars of body shaming still sting my insides,
I remind my daughter to
J, judge others only after you’ve
jumped, have you taken a dive underneath the tip of their iceberg?

K, is for knowing that they aren’t much different than you
L, of course, is for love, because there is nothing lovelier than how you’ll love the
lemon tree you’ll help plant when you’re three or, how you’ll say you’re in
love with the one down the street more than you love me, if you
lie on that rainbow, darling, I will make it pour every night so you know you are seen, but please be
M, mindful, the
media is a maze I don’t want you to get lost navigating, and the
mirror, once I took a gaze, I was trapped there for days, imagine your
mother, lost, wondering, why she didn’t look like her, or her,
my daughter, you are
N is for not her
no one has the right to make you feel inferior, but eventually, they will. And you will
nod the first time,
notice they way their lips won’t quiver the second, then spare
no seconds in showing them you aren’t ‘lesser than’ but
O, of course, you will be outnumbered, be
P, be patient, I know, how a personality turned
patriarchy is patronized in your very palms, please: take the
pride buried deep within your skin, savour the
palak paneer I packed in your lunchbox today, and smear their
prejudice onto their quivering faces, do not stay
Q, is for quiet, quickly, tell me, are you ashamed of your
R, race? My daughter, you can bargain for your jeans with the seller on the street,
remember the ones in your DNA are yours to keep,
realize these religious rituals run from faith that blossomed into
roses I never watered myself, and if you were to
S, see that you
shouldn’t need to shapeshift the syllables of your name to
satisfy a stranger’s tongue, how your
stories might be lost in
T, translation, trust me, my mother tongues hold
tattered and tangled tales, I promise we will undo the knots
together, just remember
U is the umbrella I will always be to protect you, when anyone says you are anything but
urge them to
V, vacate the premises,
W, welcome them once they have fixed their attitude, take an
X-ray, to spot a condition for utmost hostility and say
Y is for
“Yes, I understand, ignorance is damn blissful, yet
you might want to read the back of my hand, learn your alphabet again, before it
Z, zig zags its way across the surface of your cheeks.”

Shruti Mistry (they/she), also known by their stage name, Mystery, is a queer, South Asian-Canadian spoken word poet currently studying psychology at the University of Ottawa. They use performance poetry as a tool to connect, heal, and speak about identity, culture, mental health, and social injustice. She recently placed runner-up in Voices of Today’s 2020 slam, a national youth for youth poetry festival, and the Human Rights Film Festival Individual Poetry Slam hosted by JAYU Canada. You can find more of their work on Instagram: @wordsbymystery.