Poem About My Life Mattering

Asked myself this morning—this usual—where is black life found?
Surely not in an atlas given how they cull the size
of the Continent down as carefully managed roach control,
But other nights I hear myself singing down a well and it sounds
a trumpet or at least the mouth of Joseph trying to have a good time,
you know? When the stars decided the fly tanning on Mike Pence’s
picket-fence hair—was that black life? And should I shed myself
of that chitin and decide this black self—and so grow a spine
who must I show it to? I wouldn’t recommend history either,
But black life died for me to sip high-fructose liquids with less ice:
no matter whose skin I wear I can’t laugh at that. A parallel history
is right next door and the neighbor’s dog keeps barking my name.

From Please Make Me Pretty, I Don’t Want to Die: Poems by Tawanda Mulalu. Copyright © 2022 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.