Film Studies III by Tawanda Mulalu

I don’t watch myself, others
watch then draw. You draw
me with your lens— it asks
where my skin is bred, films
my right eye, its oddity: white
dot in pupil. Where a doctor
saw no harm, my mother eyed
its lonely milk. See me gently
inside while your lens seeks
my “white thoughts”, hidden
inside my pupil’s black. My
thoughts, I thought, were color-
less. Or I thought you thought
this. Or hoped this. Or what is
your lens’ draw of me. You
said you’d ask of the white dot.
And you ask of everything but
the white dot, the white dot’s
draw of everything else of my
skin— always this soft excuse
for everyone to ask me of every-
thing but me. My skin is every-
thing, is everything and me,
anything but me, is me— but
you ask. It does not belong to
you, I can’t make it belong to
you— and my girl makes films.
I write. Everyone must draw.
She is sometimes white. She is
sometimes not. And I am black,
I am sometimes not anything
but black. Is drawing like breath.
Breathe gaps between my lips.
Breathe gaps between my teeth.
My girl makes films. My girl is
not my girl. I am not my girl’s
boy, not your boy, and what is
being drawn if not who. And
who is anyone to draw but love.
Your lens here, my girl, my love—
is what you ask with this— of me—
of you of me— is it black. It is not
anything. It was almost me, almost
black. Coax it and it breathes back.


Tawanda Mulalu was born in Gaborone, Botswana. He is the author of the chapbook Nearness, forthcoming from The New Delta Review and is an inaugural member of the Brooklyn Poets Mentorship Program. He has also served as a Ledecky Fellow for Harvard Magazine and the first Diversity and Inclusion Chair of The Harvard Advocate. His poems are published or forthcoming in Lana Turner, The Denver Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Salt Hill Journal and elsewhere. He mains Ken in Street Fighter.