Inside the Belly

The seaman James Bartley screams as he slides down a sperm whale’s throat in 1891. He was in the stomach for fifteen hours, unconscious in the stench of digesting fish. He survived after his shipmates sliced the belly open and pulled his twitching body into bed, where he stayed for almost a month. (If this happened today he would take seventy selfies and post them online.) According to the tales, he lost his sight and his skin whitened. He wasn’t holding any blade.

A black-swallower can take a man twice as big as himself, his
+++jaws distensible.

Catching them by the tail, he walks them over to his mouth.

This is the marine-biology of deadly desire.

By most imperial standards in 1891 by the British East India
+++Company my biology is a metaphor for black.

I am black-skinned.

As a child I prayed to be white until my foreskin started to whiten.

This is not the deep sea so spotting men is not impossible.

The internet is a type of black-swallower too.

A humpback hums as it tongues me. He doesn’t spit me out after I come in his mouth. I want to shed my skin for a white coat. I ride him into the dark cold water of an unnamed sea. His flanks toss me from the bow, make the scales fall from my eyes.

According to the Royal College of Surgeons, any mating is a death

A wish for whiteness is every white man you bed.

Consider the bull shark that swallows a blowfish whole or why you
+++refresh your screen with the “Load More
+++Guys” feature on the app.

When it reaches the stomach it endures the acid and inflates before
+++chewing through the shark’s stomach lining.

Kippling’s sailor placed a grating in the whale’s throat to protect it
+++from STIs but you like to cast
+++cowries—stomach acid kills everything.

Your stomach still lurches with each tri-tone ring: which white man
will you invite inside tonight, let erase you slowly?

+++++++++Rajiv Mohabir


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