Kanika Lawton

Confessions of a Biracial Woman

i am peeling back“look, i am not the white girl you think
i am. my skin is two coats too thin, smooths away with a
hard-bristled brush.” i can be as brown as you want me to
be, burnt sugar forgotten at the bottom of the pot.

my mother tells me i have always tanned easily, let the
wind kiss my skin sweet and ripe. when i am milk white
they see my last name with narrowed eyes picking meat
from bones.

i am no vulture’s prey, but my body has the trimmings of
a feast. skin tastes better than meat; all the fat under the layer,
like a knife against apple-core neck. i want to write about the
boy who broke my heart but i can’t unless i mention

            girl: mixed white and asian canadian and boy: peruvian-american.

can’t bare this family trauma unless it is

            peril: interracial marriage and on yellow fever babies.

can’t give name to this sadness unless there is

            culture clash: stay in your lane or
            colourism: racism for nonwhite people or
            look, we only care about stories we can put a colour to.

i want to be broken without dragging my body through mud.
want to say listen to me without having to burn myself harsh first.

want to be anything except

            the body, chameleon-skinned and wanting.


Epitaph for Burning Palm Trees, Los Angeles 2016

So the boy doesn’t love you.
                        So the boy wanted to live inside your body
            without paying any rent and you let him stay
                                    because                                             hey
it beats living here all alone
but now the dishes are piling up and
                                                you don’t remember the last time
the dog’s water dish was replaced and
            maybe it wasn’t the boy who let the fruit rot in the kitchen
                                    but you don’t think he’s ever eaten
                                                                   anything with seeds                  in his life and
okay, maybe the one
            exception was you, because he loved telling
                                                            you how sweet you tasted on his tongue
and it makes your bones crystallize
            and your mouth is only attractive to flies now and
does it hurt?
Well, why shouldn’t it?
He should have been your first love
and you should have found him when you were
seventeen instead of
                        crying in your dorm room at the ripe old age of
                                    because this type of heartbreak is too young and
painful for someone who’s been paying
                        her own bills for two years and
fine,                              your grandmother was so scared someone would hurt you
                               she wouldn’t let you date until,
she still doesn’t want you to date but it’s too late now—
            there’s mud all over the carpet and you
                                                                        thought you would
only be on your knees for one thing and one
                      thing only and
you know you sucked his soul out the first
            night and you’ve been paying
for it ever since,                                                    you temptress, you succubus, you maneater
don’t you love power?
At least you don’t think with your dick, letting every wet spot
            dry where you left it, and
                                                            he didn’t spill that cup of tea
but you know he almost did, just like
                                    he spilled out I love you and
                                                                                    I miss you and
            I need you I need you I need you
and you listened to him because
                                                                   shit girl,
            you were so desperate for love
                        you would take anything he gave you, and
remember? You were the one
                                                            that bought the booze that night,
and it’s scary being fucked up but it’s so much
            scarier being sober, and
you wanted to drag him into the bathroom with you
                        but he loved everyone else and you wanted to be drunk
                                    but you only like sangria and
I love you sounds like getting your teeth
                                                                        pulled            out
            but your father spends too much on
                                      dental insurance anyway.
So he never loved you, and you would have burned
            down the house and every palm tree in the yard
before you would even think of
                                                            looking at his Instagram again and
hey, he was high half the time he was with you
                                                         so maybe he just likes the smell of smoke.
                        Maybe the only bath you’ll ever take
is rubbing ash all over his favourite parts
                                    of you,                           but there’s still dirt in the living room,
          and the smell of rot is making you sick,
so can you find the bleach and cover the couches in
                                                                                    plastic sheets again?
            do you remember
                                    where you left the mop and bucket?



We are the water’s first betrayal,
always trying to drain bloodline
from stomach.

I think my mother believes herself
ocean when she is little more than
pond; little more than a home

for reeds, bristling against too
soft thighs and my body is

swelling with hurt, all of these dreams
of expectancy and a child who looks
nothing like me.

Pregnant with pain and anticipation,
pricking my belly and all of the
water rushing out—

like blood spilling this ruin
all over the kitchen floor.



Kanika Lawton is a writer, poet, and editor from Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in film studies from the University of British Columbia, where she served as an editor with the UBC Undergraduate Film Student Association. Kanika is the Founding Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of L’Éphémère Review, a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold and Silver Key recipient, a 2018 Porkbelly Press Micro Chapbook Series finalist, and a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in The Rising Phoenix ReviewRambutan LiteraryRicepaper MagazineBombus PressThe Ellis Review, Vagabond City Literary Journal, and Black Napkin Press, among others. She is the author of three chapbooks including Wildfire Heart (The Poetry Annals, 2018). Kanika can be found on Twitter @honeyveined, her website kanikalawton.weebly.com, and searching for solace in tide pools along the West Coast.