Light-Black and Full of Shit - I mean, Salt.



CW/TW: rape mention, racist violence

The first time I saw a spoken word poet
- in ‘real-life’ I mean - not on YouTube I mean -
the first time I saw a spoken word poet, I realised they’re
full of shit.

This dude - hunched and heavy with the weight of his drama -
shuffled into my uni lecture and spluttered - stu t t t tered and said
salt-salt-salt-salt- sixty times in sixty-salt-seconds-salt.
And they let him-salt-make-a-salt-book-salt.
A book for salt? A real-salt-book, with his-salt-name on it.
A real book for a dude straight up full of salt.
I mean shit - full of shit.

Is the criteria for entry into a poetry slam - into all slams -
must have experienced trauma ⃰questionmark ⃰
Genuine question ⃰questionmark ⃰
Trauma ⃰questionmark ⃰
Rape ⃰questionmark ⃰
Depression, oppression, discrimination ⃰questionmark ⃰
Discrimination - great word.
Nation. Australia - what a nation.
Kamilaroi. Dunghutti. Nations.
My nations.
My people, ancestors, culture.

Light-coloured girl in front of you is actually
Black where it counts, I say.
Black IN my body
IN my ability to make white-white men uncomfortable -
am good at that
(must put on resume).

Light-black when white-white girls asks why Dad is black-black in year seven. TICK.
Light black when I trip on my tongue and bite back tears
when I can’t remember the words to explain to white-white classmates why
Abo feels like - like - prodding hands in an open wound. TICK.
Lighter-black when they tell me I’m a liar
- not really black at all with that skin -
even though right there I’d never felt blacker
‘cause I know in this nation, black - light or other -
always comes after white-white. TICK.

Just black when white-white animals growl
Abo-tits at me and my shirt printed with my flag. TICK.
Black-black when my poetry tutor tells me my work sounds
too intelligent, to be the voice of an Aborigine. TICK.
BLACKEST when I still top his class with a poem written in language. TICK.
BLACKEST when I top all of my classes. TICK.
BLACKEST when I get that job,
when they call me CEO,
when I sit across from that white-white politician man
in his white-white office in Canberra
and I tell him
I am black
I am proud
I am woman.
And I’m coming for his power.

You know they want us now, right?
The white-white want the non-white.
Wanna write the non-white,
wear the non-white, be the non-white.

I guess there’s a reason we use vanilla as a synonym for boring.

White has been painted on to all that the age of discovery stole
- it’s blaring and everywhere -
and let’s be real. Non-white has always been cool.
Surviving against the odds has always deserved a spot in fashion week.
A front cover, a proliferation of popular art -

Dear white-white people,
you’re late to the party.
Fuck your cultural appropriation.
Take a step back and come second, for once.

My mum’s cousin decided he was black last year -
My mum is where I get my light in my black from.
And this cousin is full of salt - I mean shit.
He decided he is black and he thinks this makes him cool ⃰questionmark ⃰
Get’s government handouts ⃰questionmark ⃰
Uses the made up black as an excuse for his unaccomplished life by
the poverty line, cause that’s what black looks like right ⃰questionmark ⃰

Blackness is a responsibility.
Blackness does not give you a new level of cool -
in Australia - what a nation - blackness gives you…
heart disease, obesity,
a ten year shorter life span,
a lower rank on the socio economic scale,
a one in four chance of having a mental health problem,
a greater chance of seeing the inside of a gaol cell over a university hall -
Oh Australia - what a nation.

Hey there full of salt - I mean shit - cousin!
You don’t want to be black -
you can’t handle the responsibility of carrying on the
sixty-thousand year long story
of the strongest and oldest surviving culture
in the history of the world.
What you want is to be cool.
But listen, dear white-white person, let me correct myself,
you’re not invited to this party.

The first time I saw a spoken word poet - in real life I mean -
I realised we’re all full of shit.
I am full of salt - I mean shit.
I have a good life - I have not suffered.
But I guess a salt-white-white dude in my lecture
hunched with the weight of his drama, pisses me off because
he can locate his sadness in a lived event.
I am jealous because
a pro can pinpoint that moment
work with him through it -
work him towards healing.

What do you prescribe to a depression rooted in family history ⃰questionmark ⃰
A sadness born before my conception.
A darkness written on to my future genes,
when my great-grandmother miscarried in her husbands arms
when an ambulance refused to come on to the mission where they lived.
Tattooed on my grandmother as she had her black-black skin spat on
by classmates
every single day of high school.
When she and my grandfather lost their first son
because of a polio vaccine he was denied.
Cemented in every fibre of my fathers hurt -
that’s something I simply cannot speak.

How do I unwrite it ⃰questionmark ⃰

How can I fix me ⃰questionmark ⃰
Us ⃰questionmark ⃰

I guess I’ll just have to learn to survive - as they did -
as something full of salt -
I mean salt.


About the author

Marlee Silva is a 22 year old Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman who lives in the Sutherland Shire south of Sydney. She's been writing from the moment she could hold a pencil and cares most about sharing stories of resilience, culture and family. In April this year she had her first short story published in print as part of an anthology edited by Anita Heiss, titled 'Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia'. She'll be speaking on a panel about her contribution to that novel and what it means to be Aboriginal in Australia today at the 2018 Sydney Writers Festival in May. Find Marlee on instagram @marlee.silva and at

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