A New Poem from Daljit Nagra


Daljit NagraDaljit Nagra, author of Look We Have Coming To Dover!, a collection about the Britain where Indians came and settled, and Tippoo Sultan’s Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!!, whose poems take their bearings from the part-Arcadian, part-hellish streets of ‘Londonstan’ and the places where the north of England collides with the Punjab, brings his humorous vernacular to a subject so easily dull or preachy in the pen of other poets. Pithy but with depth, controversial without being dependent on shock-factor, this poem is a realistic observation on skin-colour, and how we perceive our own skin-colour and the skin-colour of others, which manages to retain the poet’s trademark comic vibrancy. And every punch is fat and satisfying.

Would a white poet have gotten away with a similar poem? Definitely not. But the topic is labelled under risqué for any poet, and Nagra himself will be apprehensive as to the response of this poem. The clash of cultures in Britain is fascinating. If our poets are afraid to write about a nation where fact is funnier than fiction, the poetry world will be left with a big hole to fill.

Ah Brown Skin Brown Skin How I Love You Brown Skin xxx

                                                                   by Daljit Nagra

Surely no one ever

was browner than the boogie-woogie dream of I!

I, who be the James Brown & Wacko Jacko

            of Jackseat Word SlamJammers!

I, who be the sell-out, the tick-box & equal ops pin-up,

            the dream of a Brown Skin that was never deferred!

What’s that you say?

            Jesus was browner than I

            & he got more global than I?

What!? Penelope & Disraeli & Peter Sellers & Ben Kingsley

even Lear’s Brown Goose

could groove through Brown

(& flip back to pink)

groovier than I?

And yet, you say, my hot brown lips

            are red when they’re kissed

            are pink when they’re blushed

            are blue in the chill

            & black in the dead of the blasted bed!

I fall left-footed from my boogie-woogie groove

            into the ideas of me

the ideas of me you shift

like a light getting switched.


Some Blue Boy, walking by, to his Blue Bride –

Look how brown is that skin in the delicatessen.

There! That offal looking one!

            See that Blue Finger freeze

across the pane on you, yes, you

& see those Blue Bride digits

freeze on you too.

But see that bride take her first ever peek

at her hubby’s cheeks

to see his skin is a blotchy

porkiness of porky pinkiness

when hers is a True Blue Skin!


Caught between Uncle Tom & Malcolm X

with the rest of the Rat Pack at his back

who cares for Sammy Davis Junior

drilling his feet

drilling his feet in the wings

till he’s caught on hot coals

till his dinky feet

his dinky feet

will bleed again






Ah Brown Skin Brown Skin each glossy kiss

                        of you inside my skin

I broke into


& woke in the howling night

as you furled my skin

around your skin…

All night long we became gods

            about our Konark love juggernaut

                        The Sun Temple –

dissolving through the hottest postures

carved in stone to outstare

the belligerent seas of the East!

We were not shy or hushed or ashamed

from our stone-dream harem-dream

                                    of pure Brown loitering skin.

                        But oh my soldier at arms

why did you leave me like a dream?

You, who healed my skin

till it was wholly clean…

I’m waiting to sense

                        if you were of my time

                        for my mind’s eye

                        (the very whites of my eyes)

                        been objectified since.


Whatever you think’s your complexion

            it’s never the match

            of your saffron-flagged ancestors

who don’t match the Middlesex drizzle-look

you’ve weathered

            from birth.

Hide-skin Gandhi’s got nowt on you

            when you’re at times the spit

            o’ Chubby Brown or that tawny owl:

            Enoch Powell!

At best you’re the subtle mug-shot

of a Brown-Skin Bomber

who’s from these parts

                        exposed on the screen.

When he’s ambushed by cowboys in this Wild West

                        & dragged from his ‘wigwam’

in pants

                        at the tabloid crackdown of dawn

                        he becomes a shamed airbrush

                        of Sioux Red Skin!

Ah bruv,

            your kids, your wife, your Medics degree,

            have you come so far to be hit on?


Poor old Babur

            who conquered the silk route

that led to the lit dream, the oasis,


Samarkand with its gardens and pools,

with its glamorous mulberry sheets…


Never has such a steep and narrow pass been seen –

never such ravines and precipices been traversed…

Then to be vanquished from Samarkand,

to pine for aeons, pining to win her back,

after the long slog to win her back

only to lose her again

in the one tormented life

            and still be left alive.


On the day your spirit

                                    splits for the winds

            I will spread out your corpse

& blade across & across each stitch of your skin…

I being blue for the loss, my dear, must wear you.

But the Blue & the Brown Warlords

            when they’re up for partying like it’s 2099

            look at them culling hordes of Brown hoi polloi

            till they’ve patched a fad replicable skin.

Yet I’ll be jiving on the dance floor

            in the original super-cool Skin of Love!


So when the Brown & the Blue bystanders

            quiz me about your dream-skin origins

            I’ll blow them into a shock

by riffing on how you were the face

that was fired by the cosmic volts when

Ms Light

            went between the sheets with her

                                                                        Mr Night!