Symphony by Tawanda Mulalu

Begin as always with a voice.

How long can a frog in a well last?

The well is deep.

(friend, what are you doing down there?)

(friend, when did you start croaking?)

(friend, how high can you jump?)

(jump… I could be your princess)

(I’m cute enough to stop your croaking)

(these nights, I also find myself croaking)

I can’t jump.

(but… I could kiss you?)

(but… then you’d kiss me back, green and sloppy)

Please— said to no one in particular— don’t kiss me.

Today I went walking in search of the sun after dark.
Like any lover, I’m into failed experiments. Like any
other lover, this is where I succeed best. I called you
today. I pissed you off. You went to bed. So, the sun
set. Then I went to bed. I never minded time. I only
wanted to break the sun up into amazing bits. Chew
sun-bits like cereal. Make films with that light. Or
rocket ships. Either way: I garden amongst stars.
She thinks I left flowers outside her door. I should
leave flowers outside her door. She wanted me to
leave flowers outside her door. On February 14th,
the flowers I am gifted are readying their wilting.
I want you as loud as an orchestra. The quiet is
the loudest orchestra. And people are only always
as large as duos. But I am also something serious
to pay attention to. Should I pay attention too?
When I do pay attention— I’m sorry. I don’t know
when I attend. Maybe— should have been— here.

A croak ascends once more from the depths!

(hey, I think you’re pretty cute)

(sorry, I think I should go to bed now)

Going to bed now. And I am awake very loudly
in the middle of the day. What is all this speaking
of appropriation? Sounds a lot like violence to me.
Please go away. Please come back. Okay, when you
please come back: look a little bit more like the girl
with the flowers not gifted from me. Christ, you are
a girl with flowers not gifted from me! Wondering
now if any story stands if not on its own two feet.
When I called you, you tried to story yourself again.
I’m sorry for not wanting to read you. Books are so…
you know… thick. Maybe even more so than people,
who at least have the courtesy of talking back to you.
Okay, I say courtesy: mean regret. I don’t have nearly
enough of those, just too many. I think we are a little
too far in the evolutionary road of things— thought is
a little bit of a curse actually. I would have preferred
just touch. Would have preferred it without the anxiety
of thought of touch. And when I did the mean thing
to the other girl, another girl does the meaner thing
to me. Easy to not touch only to invoke the thought
of touch.

(friend, the frog is croaking for us to touch it)

(friend, the croaking is a doubling of our lips)

(friend, have I spent too much time with you?)

We only like to kiss girls.

(but I’m not a boy)

Not much of a request.

(not much)

Not much of a demand.

(no, not much)

(you don’t have any flowers for me)

The flowers are croaking. The flowers are croaking.


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.