… you too, you said with the breath of my lungs. There is only this bed.
Another one of your hairs appears. I am despite decay, whispers this
thinning abdomen. Quietly, a planet’s plates shift. A haunched forehead
wrinkling my father’s face. And another face behind his neck. I will
grow similarly. Meanwhile, your hair lines here again like another fold
in my bedsheets. Finger it. Pluck. Throw. Another shows. Move on.
Fail to. Relent briefly— and your hairs summon you a little. Disappear
you. Someday, I sweep them off the floorboard. Again not tonight.
Fine then. A glass of water shines there on my desk. Drink this and fill
my throat with dreams. Or space for dreams. Or less cold thirst for
this body to vessel long enough for dreams. To live through rivers. No,
not with these human limbs. But I am a different kind of swimmer,
he says crassly, and wet, hoping your skin will return. Come back. Please,
my throat won’t shape stone into life. I labor to cough while your hairs
thin away. And drink another glass. Attempt more breadths of sleep. Dark
wakings minutes before this new sunlight reminds me where. Disappear
you here again. Consider the naming of this place. Who they took it from.
How we once nearly named each other here. November, I am thankful
for the suffering of other nations. How we grasp at solidarity against your
pale kind. I cannot touch your skin. I can only hope for renewal through
erasure of memory. Practice this here. Read another page to. Wake. Drift.
I need you too, I wish your hairs would whisper. Eventually, my ears
will perch towards other imaginations. Even if the only music outside is
the slower injury of crisping leaves. Their patient reds. Time and its
fidelity. Another person
Your windows are wide with it.
This morning I am skin. Every-
where I migrate I am skin. Your
bed now. I approach a new face
from within you: to not be so
consoled by eugenics but by
your freckles. No, I can’t break
old soil into breath. Your street
blooms red, says the trees are
sleeping. I watch these rottings
of selves, thrown dark through
your mothy curtains, browning
cautious from speckled yellow
to mulch. How dare those leaves,
I age as bare as an African mask.
You could not know that I was
once so painted. That I try break
faith with a rainbow. Or broker
my pores against your nails, our
warm exchanges of hierarchies
of our colors. My favorite is red.
It is too well-suited for what is
beneath me, for what is desired
beneath me by tie-noosed white
foreskins of America: O Mitch
McConnell’s neck, everyone is
beautiful if you try. Please listen:
I will open my mouth for you
if you try. I promise I must try.
But love, this must be our last
whirling dance before the moon
sinks into shore. I remember her.
The blue shirt that smelled of her
that I lost on the airplane. Before
your freckles. Before migrations.
The old library where I first met
her breath, or where I last knew
her face. I don’t remember where
her grave is. Where it is, there must
be two dry seasons without reds.
Must be that orange light against
that loom of purple. Must have
carried her into that sky. And I am
home. With you. Your windows.
Tawanda Mulalu was born in Gaborone, Botswana. He is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Nearness, winner of The New Delta Review 2020-21 Chapbook Contest judged by Brandon Shimoda. He has served as a Ledecky Fellow for Harvard Magazine and the first Diversity and Inclusion Chair of The Harvard Advocate. His writing has received support from Tin House, Brooklyn Poets, the Community of Writers, and the New York StateSummer Writers Institute. His poems are published or forthcoming in Lana Turner, The Denver Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Salt Hill Journal, and elsewhere. He mains Ken in Street Fighter.