I want your dreams to know the scent of my skin,

To call me by name when I am not around.

I want them to know the bumps on my face,

To recall every pimple by size,

I want your dreams to call my name when you can no longer

Dream, so that I may kick your ass back into dreaming,

That’s how I want to love you

Even when you are dreamless,

I want to be your hope.

Even when you are without imagination,

I want to be light.

Even if it takes loving a lifetime,

Even if it takes loving you fearfully–

Fear that I may lovelessly love you,

Even when I love you uncontrollably.

When my dreams are your dreams, and yours, mine–

I want to love you even when I am afraid.

Even when my heart is in disbelief,

Or when the sun no longer shines,

And our youth no longer our pride,

Even when your cheeks are wrinkled,

And you smile with is without tightness,

And your world filled with tenderness,

I want to love you.

Maybe it will be a lifetime,

“My hobbies include having conversations with myself– 

Like how I could approach a boy today, 

Without scaring him or sounding too dumb, 

Without outsmarting him, because that would be too proud, 

Like how I could introduce myself, without talking about the boy, I once loved

Or the boy I was once was. 

But I can’t do either without talking about the other,

Hello, my name is Belo Writes. 

I have tendency of writing poetry during serious matters– 

Like the time, I wrote a poem when a preacher said I am going to hell.

You see, that was my favorite poem: 

Because at that time, I was silent, 

I was alone, and I was afraid.

Let me just say, I love fear; 

It reminds me of all the things I could do in silence,

Like loving myself without negotiating my worth. 

But I am also a boy that once loved– 

Perhaps more than he should have; 

I call him at night, 

At least I do that in my dreams when he doesn’t pick up my calls.

Sometimes I write him poems: 

I write about his lisp, and the clutch of his lips,

I write about his loud silence, 

Like he is thinking of how best to hurt me next.

Sometimes I laugh at him and at myself,

But mostly at myself– 

About how I was such a fool,

Foolish enough to love, 

To love in such a lazy manner,  

To miss his scent and his touch.

I love a boy, and he left.”

I want love, more than a good time. Love,

that is more than park walks.I want love,

that surpasses mens’ imagination

— Love that is more,

Than the word. Yet sought

after by the world; consummate and assurant

Kind of love. I want I-could-write-home kind of love,

About dreams-shared-and-destinies-unknown-kind-of-love,

Unfathomable, love, I want love that is more.

Not a good time. More than the tingling cold touch

of your hands, more than the butterflies in my stomach,

Love free from cliches. I want real love.

Like hopeful kind of love. Like I want to love you better,

But I don’t know how. Kind of love.

I want your dreams to know the scent of my skin.

The inseparable kind of love—

I want love—

Not you.

You will never find the right time–

the right time to profess your love, to your lover, and

That you would hold time ransom if the universe does not conspire in your favor,

That you would chose them over living

For what is the purpose of living if you can’t love the one you want to love?

That you would choose them over God.

For it is through God that you learned unconditional love

and that was the godly kind of love you wanted.

You will never find the right time.

The right time to choose yourself over the person you love.

You will always find excuses to give 

another shot at love, yet you cannot even forgive yourself.

You will convince yourself that is how love is supposed to be.

But what happens when things that are meant to be can no longer become?

What happens to the heart? How does it even begin to forgive again?

You will never find the right time, for the right person, and the right place.

It will always be about conditions and compromises and loveless love.

It will always be about distance and the inability to love beyond time zones

What happens then, to the heart?

What happens when distance and love can never be reconciled?

What happens to the things we wanted to have but could never get?

Isn’t love supposed to defeat all odds?

Isn’t love supposed to be godly?

Isn’t love supposed to be patient?

Isn’t love supposed to be about all the things we cannot save?

Isn’t this just us trying to find the right time?

You will never find the right time.

 

When I was a little boy, when I still dreamt of being a lawyer like many of my peers at that age, my inquisitiveness bothered my mother. “Mama,” I asked her one day, “don’t you think six children are a lot?” She gasped some air, tossed her hand in the air and laughingly said, “I wanted to make sure none of you end up lonely.” Of course, that is the most logical response to provide an eight-year-old with ill-conceived view of the world; and still thought babies were dropped by airplanes and the woman with the quickest grip caught many. That logic made me think that my mother was always on the lookout for airplanes so that I may have more siblings– therefore loneliness was impossible. I am born in a family of six: one older brother, two older sisters and two younger sisters– making me susceptible to “the middle child syndrome.” A house full of children never got rid of my feelings of loneliness. But therein was a place I felt whole– in the lonely hours when my siblings huddled around one another, I wrote. Sometimes I would write letters to my father knowing that he would never be able to read them, or love letters to a girl I had a crush on (or at least that is what boys my age did then) or wander off into empty yet therapeutic words.

 

It is in the alienation of body and my thoughts from my family and the world that kept my pen moving. By the time I was thirteen I had compiled poems in Setswana and English. I wrote my first short story when I was fifteen. I was working on a play for some time and I gave up on it. I never thought my loneliness would be an integral part of existence and liberation. It is often said that “writing introduces one to a different world,” and that remains unquestionable for my journey as a writer and the way in which I create my craft. I do not write because everyone else is doing it, I write because I find undeniable beauty in the way words can remain still on paper but move the heart.

 

I am of the view that the world is a lonely place. The loneliness in which we are born into tends to make us fixated with grouping things, and ensuring that they “belong.” We may look at the way the stars are held by the sky and consider the way in which they form a pattern and call it a constellation. We assume that the existence of a pattern suggests “rightful belonging” and this is the same with my life. The fact that my parents worked out an algorithm with regards to the age gap between me and my siblings, the existence of that pattern, suggested that we would belong together. The assumption was that there would be no kind of isolation. Loneliness would be foreign. But who wonders if the moon is envious of the stars forming a pattern? Does anyone ever bother to invite the moon to disturb the hegemony of belonging? Amid that isolation and “otherness,” that is where my writing resides. Isolation enables you to escape from yourself and observe the world in which you live in. I fundamentally believe it is the role of the writer to become an eye for the world when everyone is comfortable with belonging. It is in isolation where one can question the premise of belonging and its impediments on existence. Whilst grouping is a survival tactic, a writer thrives because of their observing nature. When we stop observing, we stop questioning; and therefore, we cannot create.

 

Whilst isolation enables one to observe, the art of creation depends on vision. I was once told that writers live in a figurative world: the world full of metaphors, similes, hyperboles and puns, which they find refuge in when they express themselves. I find this to be true. Carl Phillips adds that “the ability to see in terms of metaphor is a special kind of vision.” Metaphors as the writer’s lens enable one to give words, in their empty form, life. When words have a shape, a smell, and can evoke an emotion, they become a place of refuge. We write because we are seeking a refuge– a place to be safe and alone with our thoughts. A place in which the mind refuses to connect with anything but the tangible words on paper.

 

The sacredness of the connection between the writer and the words, is the space where truth is uncompromised and revealed. It is the writer’s responsibility to tell the truth. We can best tell the truth when are able to confront it, deal with it and accept it. The misery about the truth is that it is often like a stepparent– too often, the immediate reaction is to ignore their existence, lash out in anger towards them because of the discomfort they will create, and eventually understand that there is a valid reason they are around. The truth exists to create immediate discomfort, although it often liberates. The truth, at least for me, is that writing is a place where truth resides. We best tell the truth when we are honest with ourselves. Honesty with one’s self through introspection; Stacey D’erasmo engages the idea of truth and introspection by exploring Rainer Maria Rilke’s counsel: “Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”

 

The misfortune about belonging is that a sense of individuality is limited, or ceases to exist. Stars hang on the sky but we cannot set them apart because of their “togetherness.” But I think the moon is a star that refused to be held back by identity and belonging. We can tell the different phases of the moon because of its loneliness in the sky. The way in which it occupies space and how it never competes with the sun. The moon is sure of itself. A lonely place that enables a writer to be isolated enables the writer to occupy space remain concerned with ensuring that their words continue to stand on paper and exude energy. The benefit of introspection is that it allows you to “go into yourself” and teach yourself ways on becoming an honest version of yourself with the truth and that hones a clearer vision.

 

As an autobiographical writer, the truth needs to rest on paper like the sun rests upon the sky without compromise. In The Art of Fiction, Nicholson Baker complicates the idea of autobiographical writing; he adds that he “[likes] a high ratio of true events to made-up events or rearranged events.” I find this to be an intriguing idea– it begs the question: can the truth be made up? I think of it in terms of writing fiction: maybe I will take a true event from my life and make it someone else’s reality. Characters are all made up but they have some truth in them– the way in which we can feel them, hear them and express emotion towards them. I think that is where the truth become complicated. For me, there is no absolute truth, the truth is subjective; but how do express the subjectivity of the truth as something objective? Like Baker, I find the truth to be an exhilarating place where a writer can extract their craft, and this can be truly achieved when a writer learns ways to embrace loneliness and exercising agency by singling themselves out.

This one is for the ones formerly known as fairies.

For the ones known as fags,

For the one whose existence is minimized to a crime,

For the ones called demons,

For the ones who are  just like me.

 

This one is for the outcasts.

The ones whose existence is queer and untamable

The ambiguous ones whose existence defies small boxes

The ones whose mystery they seek to uncover

 

This is for the ones who overcome suicide,

The ones who still consider death,

The ones who are buried in shame,

The ones whose names we don’t know,

The ones we ridicule.

 

This is for the ones who existence is misunderstood

The ones who live in no one’s will but theirs

The booty-short wearing boys,

The hips swaying kings

The ones who are seen and not heard

The ones whose voices never mattered.

Maybe I will seek your sunsets.

Maybe I will hide ‘neath your air–

Your dazzling, peaceful and assuring air.

The smoothness of your voice,

The assurance of your eyes,

The forgiving embrace of your arms,

The mystifying smile,

Which knocks me dead.

Your bewitching sight,

Softening mine heart of stone.

 

If your love be not enough,

What shall be?

If your eyes be not assuring,

Where will I find mine peace?

If joy be absent in your laughter,

What sound shall I dance to?

If mine heart can’t love anymore,

How best shall I live?

 

Aren’t you a prayer,

And a soft whisper?

Aren’t you joy

And assurance?

Aren’t you free of contradictions

And complete with concessions?

Aren’t you an evening star,

And forgiving light of dawn?

Aren’t you the sun,

And the strength of my youth?

Aren’t you just a beautiful breeze–

A wildfire in a winter veld,

A soothing song full of joy?

Aren’t you just a cliche?

If I were to talk about my anxiety,

I would tell you that it’s not mine–

But it calls me its owner.

At times it keeps me captive,

Some nights it makes me cry,

Some days it makes me frown,

But at night it becomes light,

It makes me write–

And never holds me tight.

At times it’s a bitter lover–

Blames me for everything,

Never makes sense of anything.

If I were to tell you about my anxiety–

I would tell you that it wraps me around its arms,

At night it feels warms,

At noon it makes me cry.

If I would tell you about my anxiety,

I would tell you that it made me want myself more,

To write letters to myself

To deliver myself from the depth of insanity.

If I were to tell you about my anxiety

I would tell you that it makes me numb

To pain–

Puts me in constant panic

Reminds me of past ills,

Makes me hard to love.

If I would tell you about my anxiety,

I would tell that it is not mine:

I would tell you that it is like a virus,

I would tell you that it is like a demon.

 

If I were to talk about my depression,

I would tell you to spare your sympathy,

For someone worth saving.

Because I am not a rescue project:

I am a wild fire.

I consummate and change.

I am a battlefield.

I am beaten.

I am a war-zone.

I am bloody and not worth saving–

If I were to tell you about my anxiety

I would tell you it keeps me going.

It is said that we speak and see the dead when we are close to our death. We can touch them without anyone seeing. We can hear and feel them without anyone noticing. The educated ones call this hallucination. The traditional ones call this a deep connection with the dead. But it is a paradise before the uncertainty of the afterlife. It is the clearness of the blue-blue waters, the white sand, and white cloaks. It the face of your young beautiful wife that reminds you of your youth– the vanilla skin, the heavy arms and her bewitching smile and of course, her beautiful-angered-happy laughter. Therein, you’re much more alive before you are dead.

You begin to laud your youngest daughter. She reminds you of your wife after all– how she wakes up before you, to put your rooibos tea by your bedside. The way in which she prepares morogo wa thepe and bogobe ba ting. Or the way her skin crawls when she sees any kind of filth. Her bickering makes you happy and at times it angers you. It reminds you of the taste of death you want to feel– to lay down next to your wife like you used before old age wiped away your youth and took her away.

You laud her with your anger. She is beautiful, isn’t she– her freckled face so pure and loving. Her hunched back so strong and stern– bearing all the pain of your insults on her back. She is the one you love the most and hate the most. The one you tell secrets; like Abraham to Isaac, only unfortunate because she never seemed like the rightful heir in the eyes of your other children. She is the one whom you were warned that she was not yours. You wondered how a child so courageous just like you could not be yours. Of course, her skin never matched yours: your darkness absorbed the sun and hers was a skin so light that even the slightest tap on the shoulder reddens her. But she was all yours in nature and character. Her determination and hard work. Her welcoming laughter and wide smile. Her willingness to put others before herself. The one whom your mother moved the heavens for when you could not even give her the soil of the earth. She carries neglect and void in her spirit. 

 

I

Of the many things

You will see,

Red caps hang everywhere

With thick white embroidery

Thicker than the minority bloodshed

Yet unspoken about

A deafening experience

II

They will hang

On bulging white heads

III

Men whose inflated egos exceed Mount Kilimanjaro

In height

Terrified yet ecstatic in malice and hate

IV

You will see them

On bodies meant to protect

You

Yet worn to kill

You

A terrified man and a red cap,

Inseparable

V

Don’t be afraid,

They tell you

Like Judas to Jesus

VI

I can’t breathe

You tell them

It doesn’t matter,

They concede

VII

Grab her

By the pussy*

They continue to say,

Locker-room talk,

They justify,

Yet you’re one in three

You’re not safe in school

Because Brock Turner

You remember

VIII

Trust the system,

They assure you,

Treyvonne Martin and every black and brown body

You remind them

IX

From the crackling of chains

In West African Coasts

To the cracks of dawn on cotton fields

You have been bruised eternally

X

The red cap won,

It must be the KKK