Tawanda Mulalu

Near It

Please no longer the need to be harmed by colors.

The streets in this continent change as easy as fingernails
latching on to me when you breathe like this. Press hard.
Your skin bruises easy as leaves. I watch leaves cold now
while lonely cars glide past the playground. No matter this
light that flees early, I allow myself this. I amass a nest of
smaller rays— the birds do their final gathering and I am

gone again, returning for the rest of this day. Here,

an old tree. An old tree by this fence. An old tree by this fence
by this road. Gravel intermingles above soil with newer reds
revealing themselves as leaving. To beneath roots. Shall I press
myself against brick? Pretend? Yes: that I was here, will hear
beneath feet beneath brick beneath leaves above you, will hear
all along the mass of days in which another dry conflagration

falls into this box of tissues and sanitizer. Leaves, then
my kids’ hands, finally quiet in the classroom. Masks. I clean
their hands and think again of their minds, stumbling across
mathematics. Imagine the soft marvel of another planet
where other minds do not stumble, cannot marvel, cannot I
but only sing. One song and I am the last thought on Earth,

the fantasy of Schubert’s four hands, I am not dying.
I am not immediately dying. Or I do not know that I will.
For the backache, the doctors scan my heart, and find my right
ventricle might be thicker than it should be; the left ventricle
pumps oxygenated blood to the body. I am so close to safety
I could confirm it now: in my chest, a dream gone, breathing.

Tawanda Mulalu was born in Gaborone, Botswana, and is an inaugural member of the Brooklyn Poets Mentorship program. He studied Psychology and English at Harvard College, where he also served as a Ledecky Fellow for Harvard Magazine and the first Diversity and Inclusion Chair of The Harvard Advocate. He has attended or received scholarships from the Community of Writers, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and the Summer Program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His poems are published or are forthcoming in The Denver Quarterly,The Massachusetts Review, HAD and elsewhere. He mains Ken in Street Fighter.

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Spring 2021