from calling a spade a spade

by Kayo Chingonyi

The N Word  

You came back as rubber lips, pepper grains, blik
you’re so black you’re blik and how the word stuck to
our tongues eclipsing – or so we thought – the fear
that any moment anyone might notice
and we’d be deemed the wrong side of a night sky.
Lately you are a pretty little lighty who can
get dark because – even now – dark means street
which means beast which means leave now for Benfleet.
These days I can’t watch a music video
online without you trolling in the comments
dressed to kill in your new age binary clothes.

The Cricket Test

Picture a cricket match, first week at upper
school, blacks versus whites, that slight hesitation
on choosing a side, and you’re close to knowing
why I’ve been trying to master this language.
Raised as I was, some words in this argot catch
in the throat, seemingly made for someone else
(the sticking point from which all else is fixed).
We lost to a one-handed catch. After the match
our changing room was a shrine to apartheid.
When I crossed the threshold, Danny asked me why
I’d stand here when I could be there, with my kind.

The italicised phrases in ‘The N Word’ are borrowed from the song ‘Get Dark’ by Mz Bratt