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eyewoke

while walking in my darkness, I woke, eyewoke

Bubbles.

My happy is like bubbles
Delicate and round
Destroyed or elevated by the slightest movement

These bubbles fill up the hallways of my chest
Until it feels like
I can’t breathe
And I never want to

If I might never again draw breath
Let it be

Let my swinging heart
Forever impress upon these bubbles

This feeling in my chest
Which rises up my neck
In throes of a feeling
My words cannot articulate

My lips part
To set free
This shattered laughter
So foreign, so familiar

If this is my Happy
Please, let it be

Chiseche

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Skin.

And then he said,
“You’re really pretty….for a dark skin girl”
The words appear on my phone screen, this device we have substituted the awkwardness of first dates with,
We are a bright generation of innovative minds
Yet his words take me back 18 years when I could first comprehend the words
Pretty…but like…for dark skin”

My Skin.
An ever-going subject of conversation from friends, and strangers alike
From me; A timeline

I am 3 years old, my sister calls me Black,
And without a beat I retort
“I’m chocolate

Few years down the line, the Teacher wants a pretty girl to be Mary
For the Christmas play
My 7 year old hand is raised high up
“Pick me, pick me” it’s almost a plea
But the other Teacher says;
I should be the Narrator, way over there in the back
Mary wasn’t Black like me

And so, I always play the Narrator,
Until I am 13 years old
Too grown for silly Christmas plays
I guess maybe that’s why I like to read

At the home-shop, near home
The shopkeeper hands me a tube
It is green, and yellow
It will help fix your problem”– he says
Giving me a once-over

My aunts, women grown, refer to me as;
“One of her daughters, but the one that came out dark”
In the same tone one would use to say
“The one that got hit by a train

My sister, telling strangers
“Yeah, we look alike, but she’s just darker”
Before turning to me to add
“Oh. but don’t worry, your skin will fix itself by the time you’re 21”
As if I don’t see the acid-smelling orange bar of soap
She keeps hidden under the bathroom sink

My skin.
A subject of your opinion
A recipient of awards such as;
Monkey, Blick, Jigaboo, Dark Black, Burnt Offering 
I laugh at the last one
I first heard it in uni, from a Black Power student activist
As she offhandedly described her friend

My skin.
A subject of your fetish.
White men tell me how we would make such cute babies
How they imagine the pink between my black thighs
Must be such a beautiful contrast

Black men glance at me
When they make reference to wanting to have
Black-ass babies
As proof of how woke and black they are

My skin.
A subject of your fear
Demonized, weaponized
Ladies clutch their bags when my brother crosses them on the street
The shop attendant conveniently always asks if she can help me

But. My skin
Is not up for discussion, debate, or discourse

It is the years that saw my mother, and her mother,
And their mothers before them

It is the stories of my grandmother sat on a reed mat
Whose lips could not form the words
Once Upon a Time”
But instead said “Panali”
And other rhymes and riddles
Which my neo-colonized mouth cannot pronounce
Let alone reach for on the dusty shelves of my memory

My skin is living, walking proof
The the Sun reached down and kissed my foremothers
So that they too, had Sun in them to pass down to their daughters
And their daughters after

My skin tells the story of a people
They tried so hard to erase
With their history books, and museums, and fairy tales

My skin is power

So, no, Mr. “You’re pretty…for a dark skin girl”
My beauty is not in spite of my skin
My skin is beauty

Chiseche

To The Boys That Never Loved Me Back (a Poem)

Dear Boy,

When I first liked your photograph online, I must admit;
I was half drunk on cheap wine and I just didn’t like the current number of likes it had-
My Anxiety can be funny like that

So, fast forward to when you’re messaging me and I’m messaging you,
And when a mutual friend finally introduced us, I must admit;
I pretended to be surprised that you too liked photography, and tea, and live music-

Truth be told;-
I had spent half that morning perfecting my ‘Oh my gosh! Me too!’
I can be funny like that

Truth be told;
I  had already gathered a bit about you by your third text
By the time I finally decided that you could be a potential One
And so, a background check was necessary

But, I must admit;
I just liked looking at your filtered abs, and white teeth, and fake-deep quotes
Which I convinced myself were a secret code to who you really were
Social Media can be funny like that

Fast forward to when we don’t need a mutual friend to facilitate us
I must admit;
I had already imagined three different scenarios in which we would come to an end
All of them starring you and someone much taller, skinnier, prettier
And much more interesting than I
Loneliness can be funny like that

And so when you would look at other girls, flirt with them
Take them on dates where you would tell them
The things you once told me
I must admit;
I didn’t mind

I was cool with it.
I was a cool girl- a modern girl
Self worth- or lack thereof- can be funny like that

And so when I started seeing you less and less
And when finally you told me it was over between us
That you never really knew me
That you had been tricked by the idea of
Who you thought I was
I must admit;

I had no answer for that;
And so I smiled,
And held back the weight which threatened
To rip my throat out
Pride can be funny like that

And when you walked away,
I realized the time, and the words
And the way I actually felt about you
And that in spite of everything
You were actually my best friend

You taught me how to bare my soul to the world
To forget, even if for a while
That every beginning must have an end

You were like the insides of those flowers
You were obsessed with taking pictures of;
Beautiful, but only for those that looked close enough

From you, I learned to learn new loves
To be selfless in myself
To laugh at the slightest of causes

I learned that I don’t have to be perfect
I don’t have to spend to hours in front of my mirror
Pretending to relate to you when I could simply
Relate to you

I learned to live
I learned that I am enough

Truth be told;
When you walked away, I didn’t shed a tear
My love can be funny like that

 

– Chiseche

 

Corridors Pt. 1

In my sleep last night, I died.
The life it left my lungs,
Laying them on my ribcaged floor- limp
From the words you made me drink

My heart, like ripe fruit fell-
To the ashes that were my womb a tomb-
Well carved and hollowed out
With the daggers your tongue throws with abandon

My mind, its empty corridors
Once filled full with the colours of a girl, I think
I once knew
Now roam empty and grey

In her place another,
Stalking her hallways,
Guarding with flaming sword and forked tongue
The secret door behind which she hides

And when I stirred, I rose with breath in my body
And blood over my shattered bones
Still. I knew. In a prison in the back of head, she lives
I live. Waiting to be woken.

– Chiseche

A Hundred Thousand

A hundred thousand things I left unsaid
A hundred thousand thoughts that haunt and follow-
Me. To bed
I wake in my sleep
Please don’t wake me up

A million silver penny memories
The picture perfect life I had to borrow-
We. Were young.
You filled my cup
Please don’t wake me up

I got lost but I’ll never show
I tell myself that I’ll start tomorrow-
But. We know
Tomorrow never comes
Please don’t wake me up

This six stringed hope for a life I had
Great joys drank up even greater sorrow-
I. Fell out
Was I ever in
Please don’t wake me up

A hundred thousand things I left unsaid
A hundred thousand thoughts I freed and let go
Still. My heart
Take me back to sleep
Please don’t wake me up

Chiseche

Untitled #1

When I’d first seen that picture of you
Of you with them, your friends
Eyes squinted to slits, cheeks pulled upward in laughter so alive it jumped
Right out of the still
I thought to myself
How dare you

How dare you share your time and candid laughter
For the whole world to hear
How dare you tread life so lightly without intermission
How dare you find peace of mind
How dare you be happy without my permission

And so I called you, casually so
Bringing up the photo like it were nothing
Pushing ever so slowly, those buttons which I knew so well
Smiling to myself in a savage satisfaction
When from your voice, I heard the tell which meant your high
Soured into a new low

What is wrong with me?

My small victory curdles into lumps of emptiness
To do something so low takes a special kind of screwed up
When did I become this person?
And the worst is, I don’t remember who I was before
Is this who I’ve always been?
Who, or what, really, am I?

 

Chiseche

Letters to Berlin

I crossed the street, and sat at the cafe
The smell of tea leaves mingled with the dry August wind
The taste of sugar on my bun, almost a sharp tang
The slow burn, as the tea assaulted my tongue

My hand it skimmed along the pages
The whirls of my fingers, mingled along the ridges of-
The crumpled papers almost a hand thick
The not-so-straight lines, and scratchy ink

Letters. Every single page unique
Telling stories of a life untold, yet fully lived
Of love and laughter, and memories golden
But also of pain, of loss, of a childhood stolen

The letters, all mine, all written to me
Self-authored, self-read, self-published, and self-buried
Now out in the open, for all eyes to behold
But all they will see is a tiny mount of paper, dry and old

These words they cannot be held in any longer
They cry out to me, their voices growing stronger
And so, I’m sending my letters to Berlin
For my life it was un-started, now let it begin

Chiseche

Silver Lining

Happiness is….
The yellow of the sun through the curtains on a lazy Saturday morning
The sound of nothing, almost- as the slow traffic rumbles seemingly far away-
from your blanket cocoon.

Happiness is…
The warmth of fresh cow’s milk on the tip of your tongue
Sweetened, almost- with the apiary honey-sharp, and gold
dripping on the round of the spoon

Happiness is…
The sound of nobody’s else’s footsteps, but your own
Through the wooded nature reserve- the call of the birds, and changing colors-
calling for sunset soon.

Happiness is…
The cool evening breeze as it deftly cuts through your hair
Swirling, not so silently- to a deep blue sky, cloudy- but for a thin silver lining
promising the moon.

 

Chiseche

Tough Girls Don’t Cry

My father was a Military man
He always stood tall and proud
He had a voice strong and sure
And where he went, Death clung to him like a shroud

Silent. He never laughed out loud
But it twinkled with his eyes
I’d love to say that he was gentle and kind
But those would be honest lies

He was a designer…of sorts
His fists were his tools, his canvas her skin
And she was cowed to submission
Telling neither friend nor kin

The thins he’s seen in Rwanda
They years of a warred peacekeeping
They left ghosts in his eyes
And made for nights of ne’er sleeping

The only thing he ever loved
Were his daughter and his son, I think
Well, it’s what I tell myself
To keep from slipping off the brink

He taught me to be sharp always
To let on less than I knew
And when it served the purpose
To play the happy fool

He taught me hoe to hold a gun
How to not feel but to think
And those nights I’d seen his drunken stupor
Taught me to never hold a drink

Not one tear did I shed
When the day came for him to die
For my father was a Military man who raised a tough girl
And tough girls don’t cry.

– Chiseche

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