Black Women/White Babies
I remember us
Age six or seven
Or some age we could only think for ourselves through observation
We had already begun practicing how to wrap our
Jessicas and Sophies
With beach towels
Tight on our backs
Rocking them back and forth
Until they fell asleep
When they woke up
We placed them on their bums
Between our thighs
Neatly plaiting their hair
How to feed them
How to carry them
Careful not drop them
Careful not to upset them
How to please them
It was important that they, in our imagination,
It didn’t matter why then.
If they broke, we could fix them, too.
Twisted their limbs back into their torso
Rolled their eyes back to normal
No one wanted a demonic looking Jessica
Or a Sophie with a missing eye
(They were not disposable)
We grew old with them.
You had to grow old with them: an unspoken rule.
This is how we learned loyalty.
We wrapped T-shirts around our heads
To imitate the movement of their hair
We changed their diapers
Renamed them from time to time
The next day, Chomi
And the next day, madam
We could never call our Jessicas madam with a straight face
We could not tell you why we found it funny either
It just was
Just like serving them tea
We could only continue with other kind of playing
Once we had put them to sleep
Our suburb had no name
There were no dogs to walk
Or cutlery to arrange
Or baby Tom’s piss to wipe
Or floors to mop
Or bedding to change
(or drones to vomit
while the world went to war with our bodies)
we didn’t have to bend in and out of different postures/roles,
Black child in bath/black child in school uniform/porridge on table/black child to school/your hand
waving goodbye to a black child that will call you mamma once in the morning, and again in the evening.
A train and two buses to a suburb that sneers at you as you clock in/apron on/kettle on/change diaper/feed baby/feed madam/Jessica in towel/Jessica on back/Tom tugging on your pegs to remind you that he is still training/the piss on the floor will bring you to your knees
The way prayer does/the dogs will need walking/the cutlery will need arranging/baas’s underwear will need folding/if there’s a protest that is in the interest of white privilege/you will need to march with them too/carry their sunscreen and Jessica while they (madam and baas) march for equality. yours.
You take two busses and a train back to your own/they have washed and hung their shirts/ironed the uniform for the morning/bathed and fed themselves/their faces proudly peer from under the blanket, and say look mamma, we are big now. we can do it all by ourselves.
You cannot name the thing you feel.
You can only feel it on your back.