Spice Ain’t White

by    /  February 10, 2021  / Comments Off on Spice Ain’t White

by Roosha Mandal

My thick, tangled black hair braided
back with coconut oil stands out
in the blond-brunette cafeteria crowd
like a bowl of spicy chicken curry
in a sea of mac’n cheese.
Hairnet ladies serve half-sandwiches
with pasteurized milk cartons and disdain.
Stiff, lunch meat isn’t meant for
brown-bread boys and girls.

Alphabet, alphabet, alphabet soup:
the clear, viscous drizzle singes my taste buds
and my tongue yearns for
clove, cardamom, and a country of colorful saris.
When English vowels drip from my mouth
in a slurry, immigrant mess,
the other kids squinch their noses,
turning away from my curry-scented jacket.

But, facing scrunched-up eyebrows
and “ew, what’s that smell”
is worth staining my molars yellow
and the moldy, green mockery
the other kids wedge in my teeth.



Roosha Mandal is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Creative Writing and Biology. Currently in her hometown of Pittsburgh, she writes for her blog @gxrlhood, works in public health, and tends to a garden.


City of Asylum believes that All Pittsburghers are Poets. With the Poem of the Week series, we seek to increase the readership and appreciation of poetry locally by publishing poems written by residents of Allegheny County of all ages and levels of experience. In partnership with the Poetry Editors at Sampsonia Way Magazine, City of Asylum advances our mission to defend, celebrate, and build on creative freedom of expression. This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from RAD (Allegheny Regional Asset District).

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