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Being Black At 20; Poem by Chanda Chongo

Being Black At 20

What goes on in your mind
when your father's wife
tickles a piece of your silence?

You are just a boy
sleeping under her roof.
Each time she covers you in
her velvet of burning words,
a part of you runs up your throat,
but becomes another silent boy
melting with fear beneath the tongue.

The last time you looked
your father in the eye,
you were sitting between his legs,
watching yourself running in his eyes,
for you felt the world
without comparisons was a world to live in.
Yesterday he called you by your birth name,
he sat in his old chair,
and burnt himself in your ears
to be like that rich child next door.
Didn’t he kill you?

You are jobless,
and society knows not
the letters of your name.
But because being black in your parent’s house
means carrying the sun on your shoulder,
you have to swallow his spits
before you can tell the world
that being black
is one way to die before your actual death.


Chanda Chongo is a poet and fiction writer hailing from Zambia. His short story 'a broken road in utopia' made the shortlist for the Kalemba Short Story Prize 2018.