Being Black At 20; Poem by Chanda Chongo

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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.

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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

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.

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