Manakin_31_copy.jpg

i am tired of being pizza

Josh Cake

Winner of the 2021

Peseroff Poetry Prize

"I love the way this poem explores mixed race identity through the extended metaphor of a pizza being sliced up into fractions—pointing out how race has been problematically constructed as something quantifiable, divisible, a math problem to be dissected rather than a complicated lived experience. There’s fantastic humor and playfulness in this poem and the way slashes are used works so effectively, too, in underscoring the subject of fractions."​

—Chen Chen, finalist judge

what fraction are you? / what fraction black / brown /

white / belonging / not belonging / what fraction of

you is you? / what / frac / is / what are you?

 

school teacher said i am mixed / so could i please list

my fractions / stand at the front / name every land

in my blood / teacher wrote my ancestors

inside cartoon pizza slices / on the white board /

teacher said i am a great example of fractions / and i

learned / i am a great example / when i am broken

apart

 

so i learned my fractions / halve me / quarter me / i

know how to divide myself for others / everyone likes

pizza / my stand-up opener: “i am descended from

slaves and slave traders, so i make myself work hard”

/ the crowd always laughs / pit me against me / write

essays on “reconciling identities” / never tasted my

lungs

girlfriend’s friends are woke / white / delighted / she is

dating someone “diverse” / ask me my fractions / i am

well rehearsed / tell me they love Obama / say they

envy my skin / one says it looks like semisweet

chocolate / another says dark chocolate / debate about

me / without me / forty per cent / sixty per cent / no

one agrees on my cacao fraction / the next day

at the shop i stare at the map above the chocolate shelf

 

maps are just neat lies / if you go to the place marked

“border” / you can walk with one foot on each side / it

does not hurt

 

i am tired of being pizza / i will be soup / no soup is

half potato half okra / potato and okra soup is all

potato all okra / i am throwing away the pizza knife /

today i hold myself with a ladle

my lungs are always together / my lungs hold all of me

with every breath / breath only splinters at my larynx /

my exhale is whole until / i speak me into fractions

JOSH CAKE was born and raised in Melbourne, on the unceded land of the Kulin Nation, and has worked in poetry, comedy, and music in Australia, Italy, and France. Josh creates work for a variety of contexts—from Canadian spoken word to Icelandic cabaret, from US video games to Chinese universities, from French theatres to Australian art galleries. His poetry has been published in Cordite, Poems by Young Australians, Pendemic, and Messages from the Embers. In June, he is launching his debut spoken word album words to regret when i'm better at editing.

Header art: "Manakin" by Roger Camp.