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Immigrant Goes Back

by Neeraja Kumar (India)

July 2021

Write the World Review

Audio: "Immigrant Goes Back," read by Neeraja Kumar

Why does the sky appear black from the airplane
even though it’s sweltering noon on the ground?
Tell me it’s the city mourning my departure—
the sun has taken some time out
to weep.

Streetlights below glitter blandly like ants
in a line, or the words of a poem. Unaware
of the world around them.
Oh city of facades!
Tell me that you loved me when I sat in your cafés,
breathed your air, walked your streets.

I know I wasn't born to you. I know my parents
lived in your shacks to earn bread and were waiting
to leave your torturous corporate holes. I know that I walked
to school in your streets with the knowledge that I didn't
belong. I couldn’t stay long. Yet tell me you loved me
through your polluted air.

Tell me to not forget following
tour guides down your creeks, memorizing
the veins of your roads—the ones that clogged
in the November rain. We’d dawdle hip-deep in water
down your zebra crossings,
while men in fluorescent orange boiler suits
pumped the water into their tipsy tankers.

I go back to a home I do not know, because I spent
all my life in pursuit of you.
Do you know how many friends I leave behind,
incubated in your belly?
Do you know an apartment now sits naked
and scarred in your gully?
I wish a crowd gathered at the airport
to wave me goodbye. I wish you grounded
my airplane. I wish you brought in a storm
and wailed that you would never let me go.


Neeraja Kumar, age 16, is a rising junior from Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Kannur in India. Her work has previously appeared in The Poetryhood Movement, The World, and Write the World Review. She is also a Senior Editor at Polyphony Lit. When she’s not stuck staring gloomily at her desktop in virtual school, she likes to sit on her verandah and pretend to understand what the conversations of crows are all about.

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Alefiya

5/17/22, 4:27 PM

Beautiful

Sweety

5/16/22, 11:40 AM

I am waiting with anxiety what does she doesto fight back these things which are very complicate to handle for a teenager...... I am Very anxious because I am in the same situation..... So I want to know what will she do.....

Somma

5/15/22, 3:16 PM

This is such a wonderful piece. I love it so much!

Rain Wind Thunderstorm

5/13/22, 10:46 AM

You are really good at writing. And at such a young age! If you don't mind me saying so, your writing style is warm and cozy. And also at the same time, very deep, meaningful and relatable. I especially loved the "The Reflection" part.

Sierra

5/13/22, 9:28 AM

I really wanna know what does she does to fight back these things which are hard to handle for a teenager.

Mira

5/11/22, 2:37 PM

I loved every word of this. Maybe because I am relating too hard. I hardly possess any of the love or filial piety I am expected to have towards my family. I am dubious of anything my grandmother says to me and have long learned to just swallow it all with a smile though I question how much I know. And. Just. Knowing. That you will be forgotten by your extended family for the rest of the year but still held up to their expectations. Thank you for writing this! I'll always remember a beautiful #ownvoices story :).

Srishti Roy

5/10/22, 6:57 AM

I really am curious about how she is gonna fight this situation and will she be able to fulfill her dreams which she once had

Alena

5/6/22, 2:03 PM

Ooh I really love this! What a great ending too. Fellow students, we've got this!

Alena

5/6/22, 1:53 PM

I love this piece so much. Novels and writing rarely makes me cry, but this was just too relatable.

Alena

5/6/22, 1:51 PM

This was so beautiful, and created such a detailed image in my mind!

glitterdays

5/6/22, 11:35 AM

I thought that was a truly insightful piece. As a teen writer myself, your words were a refreshing reminder of the meaning behind adolescence. Thank you for bringing your writing into the world, and hope to see more of it soon.