Calling Me Coloured

Jarred Thompson

 

I can’t remember the first time someone called me Coloured.

Maybe it was at School, when government officials in black suits

counted us in classrooms, filling their demographic quotas.

Or it was whispered to me outside Church

when I couldn’t say Awe in that guttural open accent.

 

I can’t remember the first time I called myself Coloured.

Maybe it was when someone mistook me for Indian

because of my straight black hair.

No, I’m Coloured

I’d say, turning the whites of my eyes toward the sky

stressing my parents and their parents straight hair.

 

I knew the food.

I knew the places.

I knew the slang that populated imaginations.

But every time I’d stepped inside Coloured Grottoes

eyes would search my skin for signs that were not there.

 

Then, my father told me of Isabella, my great grandmother: a native American.

And I gleaned from her all that I ever could hope to know

about this dark-coffee skin and straight black hair.

Yet, this never seems enough for root seekers wanting

a story explained, a traversing of fictitious parallel lines.

 

Root seekers do not know that we have all met each other before

in the alcoves of gooey history

which has manufactured prismatic ghosts of memory

of which I am a single wisp of color.