(this) black girl as shadow-boxer
Born soft, bulging, with
sympathy & all manner of fruitful
& barren laws, you cannot help
but burst into prayer.
Always, till you wander into that invisible
second of ecstasy, sweet communion with self.
In silent moments,
your little black girl smiles
from inside you. She smiles a Sunday morning,
slept in on – a small sacrifice for the better of others.
She’s your reflection –
a mirror from which you’re always backing away.
She stares at you long –
watches you wear pretend-earnest.
Pray that you pray for her joy,
her days of abundance, of expansion.
Teach her to pray with precision
for there are likely to be days
when your breasts will search for ripeness
but black rot will come easier.
touch yourself –
again & yet again till you wander
into that hour of ecstasy,
sweet communion with self, begging you
to fulfil a wish, to no longer erase yourself.
Your amai once was a girl too,
a curious young being,
with skin like salted caramel,
& a mouth
full of salt, lemon, all things unsweet,
your amai was once a girl
too. Who, like you, knew
how to squander a full night’s sleep
to swap it for full days of broad, deep slumber
through the last sliver
of dim light, falling through the blinds
soon after sunset. She would tell you
how hairless your head was,
stuck between her thighs
for hours. How the midwife told her
breathe, before asking
if her father’s sisters hadn’t taught her
that real, strong women birthed
in silence, tongues tucked behind gritted teeth.
On days she used belts,
switches & extension cords
for broken cups, curfew slips,
& other small things
You cried for her, mostly for yourself.
You could never tell
if it was
that you looked like your father
birthing you almost killed her.
On Legalising MaryJane
You remember your grandfather’s imprecise smile.
Teeth a yellowing white like the sun’s glare at high noon;
lips almost black like night on a full moon. Mornings were
spent tending to his fields before meeting afternoon,
under the shade of the msasa,
armed with a worn leather-bound bible; old newspapers &,
a worn leather pouch. Your assigned role: grab a piece of lit
firewood from the kitchen hut for him to light
what you thought to be newspaper-rolled cigarettes. You remember
your grandfather’s eyes; they had clouds in them. Deep and grey,
the sky of a storm brewing for hours. They never flickered
at the first puff but that yellowing smile would spread,
as the smell lingered like wet firewood. He’d hum to himself
like a man quietly praying, vibrating for rain. The night he died
you had not seen him for ten years. You sat in your mother’s garden
about to smoke your first spliff. Your brother next to you,
in the broken plastic chair. You watched him hold the thinness
of the Rizla between both forefinger and thumb, his hands
like your grandfather’s. The first puff made you cough
till your eyes streamed, Your brother laughed before telling you,
relax, breathe through your mouth. By third inhale: you’d found
a new friend in an old smell that hung over the English night.
You know what, yeah? They should legalise this shit.
I read online, it treats glaucoma y’kno. You knew but kept silent,
looked at your brother’s inherited hands & recognized your grandfather
as a healer who’d puffed his way through newspapers, inking his lungs’
lifespan to make the clouds in his eyes rain out the bind of no longer seeing
the world in the precise light of night and day.