Film Studies III

Tawanda Mulalu

I don’t watch myself, otherswatch then draw. You drawme with your lens—it askswhere my skin is bred, filmsmy right eye, its oddity: whitedot in pupil. Where a doctorsaw no harm, my mother eyedits lonely milk. See me gentlyinside while your lens seeksmy “white thoughts,” hiddeninside my pupil’s black. Mythoughts, I thought, were color-less. Or I thought you thoughtthis. Or hoped this. Or what isyour lens’ draw of me. Yousaid you’d ask of the white dot.And you ask of everything butthe white dot, the white dot’sdraw of everything else of myskin—always this soft excusefor everyone to ask me of every-thing but me. My skin is every-thing, is everything and me,anything but me, is me—butyou ask. It does not belong toyou, I can’t make it belong toyou—and my girl makes films.I write. Everyone must draw.She is sometimes white. She issometimes not. And I am black,I am sometimes not anythingbut black. Is drawing like breath.Breathe gaps between my lips.Breathe gaps between my teeth.My girl makes films. My girl isnot my girl. I am not my girl’sboy, not your boy, and what isbeing drawn if not who. Andwho is anyone to draw but love.Your lens here, my girl, my love—is what you ask with it—of me—of you of me—is it black. It isnothing. It is almost me, almostblack. Coax it. And it breathes.Touch me. And it breathes back.

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Tawanda Mulalu was born in Gaborone, Botswana, in 1997. He is the author of the chapbook Nearness, and his poems have appeared in many publications, including the Paris Review, Brittle Paper, and Lolwe. He lives in New York City.

Cover of the Book, Please Make Me Pretty, I Don't Want To Die

Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University

"I am moved by the cool, wounded clarity of Tawanda Mulalu’s poems, and startled by their flashes of stark, irrefutable knowing. Please make me pretty, I don’t want to die is an elegy, an aria, a prayer for bodies—and a nation—and a planet—on some dire cusp."
—Tracy K. Smith, 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States

“Mulalu is very much aware of his Black body and the America around him—of the shootings, all the anxieties of being ‘there,’ and the simple yet difficult task of going outside. But at the same time he has created with such clarity this incredible archive of arias, elegies, prayers, and song. These are a delight to read and to listen to, a frenzied spring of hope.”
—Clifton Gachagua, author of Madman at Kilifi

“The resonant tone of dreams is never far from Tawanda Mulalu’s deliciously and wildly imaginative lines, even though this dreamer is wide awake. Everything this poet touches shows plainly a genuine strangeness, as if it had just come into existence. He discovers a new world at every turn of the street, with wit as well as wonder. In line after line, he sings.”
—Cal Bedient, author of The Breathing Place

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