Cheswayo Mphanza

            You’re nobody until somebody kills you
was the anthem peeling off my tongue.

Dreams of being a man who tastes night
with remains of sun tucked in his back

pockets. Thank God for the ghettos without
mirrors. Windows with anti-reflective glass—​

damn me if I see my reflection! What man
will I see hiding behind his mother’s legs?

Death, I lust for you and the stardom
you bring. The lives crawling through spring’s mist

over your graveyards. What is more reliable
than your arrival? Your pull into phantom cars

and their closed blinds. God, if you accept
me, know heaven is vulnerable to the habits

of my past. I will clip the wings of angels
at night and loan them flightless bird feathers

in the day. I will cry with God and sell his
tears as holy water. I will blow into Gabriel’s trumpet

and resurrect those I lost in my youth. When
I land on a deathbed, make my funeral open casket.

My hands should adorn a cane with gems.
A suit tailored for the dead. Faux gold teeth

to rot with me in warm soil. A casket
with a sound system—there is a song I want

to mute when buried. When this life is finally
snatched into the afterlife, take it to hell’s pawn shop.

Though I do not know what to do with living,
this body is worth a second life.

Cheswayo Mphanza was born in Lusaka, Zambia and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a B.A. in English from Middlebury College. His work has been featured in or is forthcoming from New England Review, American Literary Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vinyl, Prairie Schooner, and RHINO. He has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Callaloo, Cave Canem, and Columbia University. A recipient of the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, he is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Rutgers-Newark.