Has anyone managed to
make a world.
after race we turn to genetics, return
after to the archives for new history. Who
then determines when we’re from. Roots,
we learn to speak of them. The baobabs do
not speak of themselves. We hear wind flee
through their leaves. We see our minds feast
through bark as ants warring with termites.
Has anyone managed to make themselves.
We wonder our excitement when we see
only our wide teeth speak, only our large lips,
anything so small as proof that we could not
hold one another. We do maybe. We did not.
I was startled by the poems in New York City-based poet Tawanda Mulalu’s full-length debut, his Please make me pretty, I don’t want to die: Poems (Princeton University Press, 2022). There is such a smart and vibrant energy and confidence to this collection, composed through a thick, complicated series of wisdoms, descriptions and lyric offerings. “So,” he writes, as part of the poem “STILL LIFE,” “I’m part of this thing where fish learned to walk. / Your first baby pictures look like seahorses. / We stop now to consider our lungs. / Look at all that we have made / and behold it is very good.” Referencing his debut, then still in-progress, as part of a short write-up on the Tin House website, he offers that:
The poems within it seem
(to me) to be about the failure of intimacy and frequently ask what it means to
be (or not be) seen by others and by oneself. They are written from, for and
against: America, blackness, Sylvia Plath, prettiness, song, poetry, and mind.