My friend Jack

My friend Jack

a poem about the author, by Byron Arthur Clark


My friend Jack,

on Facebook: Jack Frobisher,

a partial homage to a gay suicidal composer

in an arty Wachowski film,

a disavowal…

is really named Jesse.   

Engineer, poet, dreamer,

and Yoga practitioner.


I admit,

I am in love.

His skin is a creamy white

with the barest hint of cinnamon,

His eyes: two almonds,

resting sagely beneath a thicket of long wild hair.


I compare, my skin:

A dark saffron brown,

my wiry hair receding,

a flat, unattractive nose,

down which my scratched spectacles constantly slip.

One day, a comment:

on the hypocrisy of whites, 

I concur, reluctantly,

self-referencing the characters of my upbringing,

unaware of an underlying misassumption.


For reasons now forgotten,

we bring up photographs of family on our phones, and are shocked.


His is dark, Coloured

in spite of his creamy skin, cultured Facebook pseudonym,

and crisp, aloof elitism.

Mine is decidedly white, Caucasian

in spite of my saffron brown tones,

my occasional lapse into Kaapse Afrikaans,

my ambivalence about white people.


Neither one is prepared for this.

Astounded we lay our hands side by side,

scrutinising the pantone shades for the indicator of difference that should lie there,

reliably delineating the racial order we were born into.

I stare once again into his large, arresting almond eyes,

detecting now, for the first time, an exotic Malay slant to them,

and I marvel…


What strange twist of the psyche, of fate, of history

has made our very skin pseudonymous…


what are we really?


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