Little Perpetrator (3)

An abstract painting with organic figures in blue
Merikokeb Berhanu (Ethiopia/US), Untitled LII (2020), acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. / Courtesy of Addis Fine Art

From the watchtower, you utter the suburbs
I grow up in, ripe for the benefit of
whiteness. A city hunched around the island.
The prison within earshot of my bedroom,
curtains shut. None safe, houses circle
the bay. I have been in hiding from my
given tongue. You, the warden with a job
waiting for me down in the hole, diploma

cut up into a crown. Tasks include:
electricity, genitals, offering
free cries for help. My people have a history
of compliance & porcelain dogs.
The prison at my throat. It’s not enough
to want to strangle you with shoelaces.

Henk Rossouw is from Cape Town, South Africa. His debut, Xamissa, published by Fordham University Press in 2018, won the Poets Out Loud Editor’s Prize. The African Poetry Book Fund included his chapbook The Water Archives in Tano, the 2018 New-Generation African Poets box set. Poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Massachusetts Review, and Boston Review, among other places.