With the black man

In his cell

I feel kinship


They say I’m

Not black

I’m brown

Any shade less

Than ebony

But I am black

Black as the night

Without a moon


Malcolm X said:

America means prison

For me too, O

My brother

America means prison


I did not go with

Your ancestors

To the land of the free

In slave ships

But I made the journey

In spirit:

I was with you

Among the rats

And the vomit


Today, the prison

Industry keeps you


Manacled

As surely                                       

As the freedom

Industry

Keeps me in chains


They say I am free

Because I can vote:

Then, O my brother,

So are you

In your narrow

Space


Who benefits from

My freedom?

The NGOs funded

By USAID and

DFID

The intellectuals

Whose careers

Are made in

American

Universities


Only the white man

Has power, O

My brother


Pace patiently

Patiently pace

The flagged stones

Peer patiently

Patiently peer

Between the bars


I do not know

What manner

Of birds you see

But you and I

Shall be free


The Great Bazaar


That marketplace called the United States,

Where we sell our talents, and our clothes, and

Ourselves, like captives of old in the agora,

Where we buy what we need and what we do

Not need, such as our self-esteem which (but

We’ve forgotten!) cannot come from others;

That marketplace where my parents wanted

Me to succeed, and where I chose to fail;

That marketplace where I chose not to go

But stayed here to find my soul, to find you!

You lifted me above The Great Bazaar

Into that circle where the angels warn

Against man’s pride. The currency we use

Eternally remains: what if the world be lost?


Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English. He was born and lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has contributed to The Danforth Review, Axis of Logic, Enter Text, Postcolonial Text, Southern Cross Review, Opednews.com, Left Curve, Mobius, Erbacce, Down In The Dirt, The Fear of Monkeys, and other publications. He is also a freelance journalist. He and his wife love to travel. He can be found at https://iftekharsayeed.weebly.com/, https://iftekharsayeed.blogspot.com/, https://www.tumblr.com/blog/view/isayeed-blog, and https://twitter.com/ifsayeed/.

Using my yellow tail

I yellow-swam

From the Yellow River

As a yeast of the yellow peril

Against the yellow alert

In yellow journalism


With a yellow hammer

And a yellow sheet

I yielded to the yellow metal

At a yellow spot

¼ million yards away from Yellowknife


People call me yellow jack

Some hailed me as a yellow dog

When I yelped on my yellow legs

To flee from the yellow flu


Speaking Yerkish[1] like a yellow warbler

I have composed many yellow pages

For a yeasty yellow book

To be published by the yellow press


Don’t panic, I yell low.


[1] An artificial language developed for experimental communication between humans and chimpanzees.


Immigration


To escape from the tyrannical logic
Of your mother tongue
You wandered, wandering
Through earth’s length and breadth
Subjecting your old self to another syntax
A whole set of grammatical rules
Strangely new to your lips and tips
To expand the map of your mind
Far beyond your home and haven
Yet in the meantime it becomes colonized
By all the puzzling paradoxes
Of this chosen language, for example: 
Quicksand can be very slow
Boxing rings are in fact square
And a guinea pig is neither a pig
Nor is it from Guinea


Migrating


The cold night is like the tide
Surging from beyond the horizon
You are tired of flying
While the twigs at the bank are full of thorns

O Bird, where are you going to perch?
Can you keep flying until day breaks?


Yuan Changming grew up in an isolated village, started to learn the English alphabet at age nineteen and published monographs on translation before moving to Canada. Working part time as a produce clerk, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include eleven Pushcart nominations, ten chapbooks and appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17), and Best New Poems Online, among 1,839 others across 46 countries. In early 2021, Yuan served on the judging panel for Canada’s 44th National Magazine Awards in the poetry category.

This is the drum that talks to its own beat

               that started in a royal compound,

               then moved underneath to the hold

               of a ship used to exercise captives

               as if they were horses and cars.


This is the drum that belonged to the son

             of an African trader who travelled

             with slaves to get an education on

             the backs of his brothers and sisters,

             sold out at all costs.


This is the drum, hear the fontomfrom

             at the palm wine chop bar accompany-

             ing gossip and stories, holding them

             together in a social glue as thick and

             consistent as kenkey and stew.


This is the drum that was overcome by grief,

                     whose leaders colluded and left

                     our interior intruded.


This is the drum that tells its own story in bi-

                    tonal, tri-tonal scales and beats

                    that will reincarnate and never

                    surrender, never defeated.


This is the drum on the plantation that spoke

                   to Old Country and united the hands

                   from many tribally scarred lands.


This is the drum that recovered myriad times,

                made of Cordia africana, stretched

                over space, time and land, repaired

                in Amerindian antelope and

                deer skin, to begin again, uniting

                the Akan, Virginian, Taino and Carib.


This is the drum of three orchestral movements,

                    three continents shifting, telling

                    its story, all chained, enslaved in

                    different ways.


This is the drum made of wood, skin and fibre

                    that survived inhuman disaster.


This is the drum housed in Room 26, between

                    and betwixt a triangle of transatlantic

                    slavery, its watery graves and no gates

                    of return, blood trickled lands, snapping

                    fingers, picking cotton, sugar and tobacco

                    adjusting New World rhythms.


This is the drum, in glass coffin in exhibition that

                    started the very first British Museum

                    collection.


This is the drum Reverend Clarke passed on to Hans

                    Sloane with his penchant for manacles

                    and shackles, grim black iron artifacts

                    forming the chains of human enslavement.


This is the drum, part of a royal fontomfrom full

                   ensemble, where every kyɛne has a name,

                   role to speak and play in its own tempo

                   mood, rhythm and signature of space and

                   time: atumpan, odondo, kwadum, adowa,

                   abofoe, kpanlogo, djembe, gomo; ntorwa,

                   apentemma and pɛtia part of the kete.


This is the drum, housed in the royal palace,

                           where the okyerema tongue talks

                           directly to the chief of every village,

                           played with open palms or sticks.


This is the drum they thought was Native

                                American Indian until Sloane

                                travelled to Jamaica in search

                                of more bounty, then he saw

                                it played by African slaves.


This is the drum, its true identity submerged

                   under transatlantic seaboard

                   floors like Atlantis, an amphibian

                   landing, surviving and circulating,

                   even as traders sought to reduce

                  their makers and users to chattel.


This is the drum that Kew Garden experts

                    sampled and found its wood

                    was grown in Africa, originally

                    made for a musician in the Chief

                     orchestrating, dances of slaves


This is the drum of middle passages, locked in

                    the holds and grasps of the sarcophagi

                    of slave ships, greased and palmed off

                    in embalmer’s oil and put on the plinths of

                    Machiavellian Merchants of Venice.


This is the drum regarded as dangerous, inspiring

                   identity; genetic memory connected

                   by the umbilical chords of fibre attached

                   to its stretched skin across continents;

                   a communal rebellion among New World


This is the drum of hybrid tribal nations, healing

                   their scars, strumming guitars with fife,

                   drum and banjo, allowed to make work

                   music, later confiscated for fear of

                   incitement to revolt.

.

This is the drum of pre-colonial history of the Akan

                    nation, butchered, scrambled and carved

                    down, across and up by Europeans: Dutch,

                    Portuguese, Dane and British, establishing

                    their profitable trade of grain, gold and slaves,

                    traded between Ewe, Ashanti and Fanti

                    for guns under the golden coast sun and

                    salty Atlantic Ocean tears.


This is the drum that sailed on a ship that was a gift

                   from a nautical captain or crew with a cipher

                   of scruples, accompanied by sons of Asante

                   chiefs, part of their education of exploration.


This is the drum, indigenous ingenious heir to the throne,

                    home of the Golden Stool of Ghanaian music

                    our ancestors played and made at the palm

                    wine joint, drumming ɛnsaagyaesenwom,

                    palm wine music, where we reflect and pause

                    for thought on work life balancing acts.


This is the drum, we put our palms on to drum ancient

                    beats of fontomfrom comfort, singing and

                    lamenting, a tradition expanding then on to

                    the Chief’s palace to entertain royals, also

                    in sadness, announcing in funeral procession.


This is the drum that travelled the Middle Passage in six

                   months, in horrendous conditioning, next to

                   men below deck, chained in pairs, occasionally

                   let up to breathe, exercised, danced as captives,


This is the drum used to keep fit their investment from

                   sickness and suicide, as our brothers and sisters

                   tried to jump ships, kept running like horses

                   and cars, erased of identity, shackled together,

                   densely packed sardines in a black lacquered can.


This is the drum, the oldest surviving African object status

                    made by the Akan, played in religious ceremonies

                    and social occasions, travelling on a ship with call

                    and response musical legacy.


This is the drum that witnessed a twelve million Maangamizi,

                   labour for mines and plantations of sugar, tobacco,

                   and cotton among others, resisted in the chorus of

                   shouts, hollars and work songs, fife, drum and spirituals

                   evolved into jazz, rock and roll, hip hop and soul.


This is the drum that witnessed European first arrival, internal

                   warfare and displacement, settled empires of enormity

                   that had broken down, viewing war captives, internal

                   systems of slavery, the hands of domestic slaves toiling

                   on farmland.


This is the drum stolen for the massa’s entertainment, cruelly

                   twisting the legacy of African dance drum culture.


This is the drum that watched female slaves vulnerable, kept

                   on the main deck of the ship, raped and whipped,

                    preyed on by parasites of sexual predation, forced

                    to dance in twisted foreplay.


This is the drum that can’t sleep at night with the memory

                   of those that refused to participate punished

                   severely, tortured and killed, for refusing to

                   dance.


This is the drum that saw brave refusals to dance, girls

             declining slavers power and pleasure by rebelling,

             tearing up a racial script of subordination that the

             ‘bosses’ could never destroy or control.


This is the drum, the hollow goblet, full of life and stories,

             a wooden barrelled body, pegs attached, skinhead

             stretched by cord made of two vegetable fibres,

             coated by glue and ochre, decorated in vertical

             lines below its circumference equator.


             Hear the many beats of survival

             This is the drum of rebellion

             This is the drum of fontomfrom

             This is the drum of tradition

             This is the drum of lineage

             This is the drum of genetic memory

             This is the drum of endless reinvention

             This is the drum of Diaspora in chorus

             This is the drum of the palm joint and royal palace

             This is the drum of a triangular hybrid nation

             This is the drum of varied tempo and time signatures

             This is the drum of history, mine and yours

             This is the drum of the Maroons and Nyabinghi possession

             This is the drum of past, present and future

             This is the drum that caused trouble and confusion

             This is the drum of Old and New Worlds

             This is the drum that weaves like Anansi

             across the Atlantic in its tensile strength

             This is the drum of survival

             This is the Akan Drum.


Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss is a writer and teacher who has lived in the UK, Japan, and currently, Australia. Of Anglo-Ghanaian heritage, his work seeks to explore liminal landscapes, complex identities, and social constructs of race. Andrew has previously been published by Afropean, People in Harmony, Fly on the Wall Press, Fair Acre Press, Poor Yorick Literary Journal, The Good Life Review, Scissortail Press, dyst Literary Journal, Sound the Abeng, and Rigorous amongst others. His work will appear in ­The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2019-2021 and his debut collection Childish Recollections with The Black Spring Press Group. He can be found at https://www.agkmoss.com/ and https://twitter.com/agkmoss.

He had his appointment with the santera on Thursday morning. That was the whole reason for this trip. The lies we tell ourselves. He didn’t even believe in Santería, but here he was. Maybe, just maybe, the santera would be able to fix his problem. We do a lot of things just to prove to ourselves that they won’t make us feel better, like calling that ex-girlfriend when your dog dies just to remember that she never made you feel any less alone. There is always the hope, though, that it’s going to be a tender and warm moment and you will realize you’ve been remembering everything wrong. 

He had been seeing that ex-girlfriend last March. His wife didn’t know, or maybe she did. He felt, at times, that they had developed a non-verbal agreement. He had seen the movies. The wife is supposed to smell the perfume on your clothes and spot the lipstick on your neck and say, “I don’t have that color”. He wasn’t careful either, but she never said anything. 

He went out to dinner alone. He had arrived that afternoon on the island and didn’t know anyone here anymore. Maybe he had never known anyone; he just had the illusion that he did. He remembered his childhood friend, Lazaro, well. Dark skin, olive eyes, robust — even as a nine-year-old boy. The streets where they used to play baseball with improvised baseball bats made out of wooden blocks that once held buildings together; majestic Baroque houses in pastel colors facing the sea. 

Lazaro probably didn’t remember him or the details of his face. He probably didn’t remember his skinny, long legs and the weird shadowy mustache that he had when he was just ten. “We forget the ones who leave because they are too many to remember,” his Aunt Haitana had told him once, years before, on his first visit to the island. She was dead now, her ashes swimming somewhere in the Caribbean with a gam of sharks. 

The restaurant where he dined was right in front of the Malecón, the big stone wall that protects Habana from the anger of the ocean. He thought that it would be nice to go for a walk after dinner. It was always relaxing to walk next to the sea. The waves crashing into the wall sounded like a song he liked when he was a teenager. In this song, there was never a climax, just an approximation to it. The waves came with all the energy and determination to go as far as their force would permit it, to travel through the sand until all the power in the water was exhausted. Instead, they were abruptly stopped by this stone wall. No warning. He wondered what the first waves felt, the first waves that hit the Malecón wall. The anger and confusion that overpowered them and how ever since that day they’ve been trying to tear the wall down. Some day they will.  You can’t kill the ocean. 

The ex-girlfriend that he slept with in March had once told him a joke that really made him laugh. He would think about it every now and then just to remember why he fell in love. For some reason, that night, he wanted to remember why he fell in love. It gave him a false sense of autonomy – so much in his life felt unintentional. They were talking about dying and how they wanted their bodies to be disposed. It was a phone conversation. He was driving on the highway. He wondered where she was, but he never asked, and she probably didn’t even remember the joke anymore. “I want to be stuffed and hung in a plaza like a shirt in a clothes hanger.” He laughed so much that he almost got into an accident, even though most people would find it hard to even understand it was a joke. 

The reason why he had been able to hear her joke, and all the other things they talked about on that phone call is because of electrical signals and cell towers. Her phone had converted her laugh into an electrical signal, which was then transmitted via radio waves to the nearest cell tower. Then the network of cell towers received and passed the radio wave to his cell phone which converted it to an electrical signal and then back to sound again. He wondered how her laugh looked in radio wave form when traveling from wherever she was to his car. He imagined it as a salty and warm Malecón wave speeding through the air only to be abruptly stopped by his 2001 red Honda Civic. Her laugh could have travelled galaxies if it wasn’t for him. 

They were over now, though, and he was in Habana, and she really didn’t matter. These were the things that sometimes occupied his mind, and he couldn’t control it. He felt dumb about walking through the Malecón thinking about how a good joke had reached his red Honda Civic eight years ago. 

The night smelled like tobacco. There were people drinking bad rum everywhere. Some had old guitars and others were playing reggaetón from their black-market smartphones. He tried to imagine what he would be doing on that August evening if he had stayed. He had tried to fantasize about how his life would have turned out if he had never left Cuba. It was impossible to imagine; yet, he did have a feeling that he would have been happier. Maybe he wouldn’t need a santera to help him with what everyone else back home called a hallucination. 

The next day he woke up with an urge to walk to Parque Almendares. He got out of bed and realized the floor wasn’t wet, he wasn’t wet, and he had slept all night without waking up once. He got to the park and felt like he was stepping into a bathtub full of hot water, a delightful sensation until the water starts getting cold and all pleasure is lost. He had played there as a kid and every time he came back, it seemed like nothing had changed, or at least everything that had changed was for the better. This nostalgia for an untouched past felt healthier in the park than when looking at the crumbling columns of the city. He had heard about the man who died when his building on Calzada del Cerro collapsed in the middle of the night. The park was different, though – all the chaos and abandonment had paved the way for the most beautiful urban jungle. In front of him the trees were huge and had vines that fell like Venus’s hair. The plants on the ground seemed like a sky of fluffy green clouds. 

But then the water went cold. There’s only so much walking and reminiscing he could do before the absurdity of this trip started to catch up with him. His wife was eight months pregnant, he was an atheist, and he had taken a three-day trip to Habana to talk to a santera. 

The pills that the psychiatrist had prescribed had done nothing during all these months. If anything, it made it worse. The sound was louder, the room got colder, and every night there seemed to be more and more of it. His wife couldn’t feel it. He actually hadn’t asked her, but he figured if she could, there was no way she wouldn’t have brought it up. When she found the orange prescription bottle in the bathroom, she walked up to him and hugged him for a very long time. He stood there feeling more misunderstood than ever. Nothing was wet this morning, though, so maybe the pills had finally had an effect on him. 

He hailed a cab right outside the park. It was a pink convertible, probably more expensive because it was for tourists. 

“Where to hermano?” The man had white hair and looked tiny on the driver’s seat. He was wearing round, wire glasses and a striped button-down shirt. 

He pulled out his phone and read “Carolina and Torres, in Guanabacoa, house 73.” 

They left the park. The cab driver asked him all the typical questions: where he was from, what he was in Cuba for, had he enjoyed his visit, did he have family here. Then he talked for a long time about something, maybe politics. He suspected he had given the driver very monosyllabic answers so the man felt the need to fill the silence himself. 

The experience was like going to a big concert. The words in the conversation were the strangers at the concert. He knew they existed, and he had seen them, but he couldn’t remember one single face. Sometimes people talk at you like they are holding a gun, like they are shooting question marks and words like “happiness” and “sister” and “president”, and you try to catch the words in your hands before they hit you, so you can throw them out the window, but sometimes they are too many. And with your silence you beg the person to please drop the gun, but they are too busy shooting, and you don’t have a gun, so you just sit there, and words hit you, and then you forget everything anyone said. 

“Chico, get out, we are here.” The man hit his arm, and he realizes the car has stopped. 

The neighborhood is composed of one-story houses and smells like pulled pork and sewer water and warm asphalt. He takes out a $20 bill, hands it to the driver and gets out of the cab. $20 will make up for his social impairments, at least in Cuba. 

He knocks on the door. He can hear the TV inside. It sounds like a game show. He can also hear some salsa playing which might be coming from the TV, but it could also be a radio. 

A large Afro-Cuban woman opens the door. She is wearing a pink t-shirt that says “Paradise” in glitter and sequins. She stares at him, he stares back. 

“Yes? Who are you?” She says while she bites into her long, red index nail.

He gives her his name.

“Mijo, your appointment is tomorrow” she says as she begins to close the door. 

He stops the door with his hand.

“Please.” “Your manners, Dios mío. It’s my day off.”

“I won’t be here tomorrow. I’m leaving.” 

The woman stares at him with the music and game show still playing in the background. “Okay, let me get dressed. There will be a fee, okay? For this whole…” She makes circles with her hands to explain what a disaster he has caused, then walks back inside. 

Sitting on the sidewalk he can hear old, rusty bikes in the distance and kids screaming. The day has gotten hotter. The asphalt breathes out the heat. The door squeaks behind him. He turns around and the woman is standing in the doorway with a long white dress, a white scarf covering her head and a red flower resting above her left ear. “Come in.” she says. 

He stands up and follows her in. 

The walls in the hallway are turquoise but the old paint is falling, and you can see a mustard yellow below the turquoise paint. The floor is concrete. He can see the room with the TV at the end of the hallway, but the woman leads him through a hallway where he has to crouch, then through another doorway. 

They enter a space filled with all types of religious figures: baby Jesus, Virgin Marys, adult Jesus and others he can’t identify, but if he could, he would refer to them as Yemayá, Eleguá, Ogún, Oshún . There are flowers and fruits in bowls everywhere. Two of the walls are turquoise, one is yellow and the other one is pink. There are no windows. Flower-patterned cushions lay on the floor. The woman gestures for him to sit down. 

She takes out four cowrie shells from a box. “So, we are going to communicate with your ancestors and spirit guides with the cowrie shells now. I am already sensing that there’s a spirit following you, an old man, maybe.” She closes her eyes. “Maybe a grandfather or a father.” 

“Can I just explain why I’m here?” The words tumble out of his mouth like old dust balls. 

“The reading of the cowrie shells will explain that. I can sense you have a deep connection to Ogún right now, maybe he is protecting you during a complicated phase of change.” 

“Please let me just tell you what my problem is.” 

She looks at him, and he feels naked. She looks at him and snorts. She looks at him and says, “So you are another one of them.” 

“Another one?”

“Yes, those who left and think they want to come back.” 

He finds it hilarious that this woman thinks other people have the same problem as he does. He feels the baby Jesus and the Virgin Marys and the Yemayás and the Oshúns and the adult Jesus and even the cowrie shells laughing with him. He imagines all of them have a phone, and they are all calling each other inside this tiny room just to laugh in unison over the telephone. The room is filled with each deity’s laughter in radio-wave form, and he can see them travelling through the air like ocean waves, except each one has a different color. They’re all dancing and laughing, and Baby Jesus kisses Yemayá and, she blushes, and the Virgin Mary spanks Oshún. 

Antonio laughs as he imagines this. The woman in front of him looks at him with pity in her eyes. He laughs at the absurdity of this woman thinking she understands. 

There is no way this woman knows that it rains inside his bedroom every night. That it rains so much that his room is flooded. There is no way she understands that on some nights there’s even thunder, and he gets cold, and he gets wet, and he wishes he could drown. But he will never drown because the water never rises above the bed, it always stays just under the edge of it, even when it keeps raining. He can hear and feel drops all night, but the level never rises above the bed. 

“I suppose your bed becomes an island because it rains in your room every night.” The woman plays with her long nails, her eyes lost in the red acrylic. 

And just like that, the radio waves of all the deities’ laughter drop to the ground. 

“Go back to your country.” She looks at him now. He thinks she’s about to start shooting words like “exile” and “freedom” and “letting go.”

But they both just sit there in silence, and he understands. 


Maria Luisa Santos is a Costa Rican filmmaker and writer. She writes stories and makes films dealing with immigration, personal loss, and family. Luisa is interested in the connections between one’s internal life and the natural world, and she expresses subjective, unknowable experiences through description of landscape. Her latest short documentary Café de Temporada won at IndieGrits19 and her short fictional film TER premiered at SXSW20 and was broadcast by PBS. Her work has been shown in The New Yorker, SXSW, PBS, New Orleans FF, Femme Frontera, and Philadelphia Latino FF, amongst others. She can be found at https://www.marialuisasantos.com/, https://www.sinfincine.com/, https://www.facebook.com/marialuisa.santosf/, and https://www.instagram.com/marialuisasantosf/.

The vehicle was offered whilst the kitchen staff changed. Following a loud function that had fed five hundred, Alistair, the sous-chef, doused himself in a cloud of strong deodorant, before casually enquiring if anybody fancied a motor. His offer fell cold onto the ground, until Zuba, in a haze, offered to take the car.

Standing next to a discarded heap of chef whites and still in his underpants, Alistair wrote Zuba’s address on the back of a crumpled blue menu, promising to drop off the car the following afternoon. He explained the car’s details, the specifics of which were consumed in Zuba’s confusion and excitement.

***

On the late bus home, Zuba thought back to months before when he had been employed as a teacher in Sierra Leone. Only two members of staff owned cars then. One was the principal who had a low silver Datsun car that had an amicable relationship with rust and belched out thick smoke when it was in motion. Staff and pupils often joked that the smoke from principal’s jalopy was so thick it could cook rice. The only other member of staff with a car was Mr Vandy, the physics teacher, who had acquired his degree in America, and, as such, considered his skills wasted in a mere secondary school. His car, therefore, was an extension of his disdain for his situation — a lumbering prop that emphasised his superiority. 

***

The offer of the car further convinced Zuba that the conference centre was a place where things were given away. The previous week, a tattooed waitress with blue hair and a pierced nose had offered up a futon. Zuba did not volunteer to take the futon because their cramped flat could not accommodate a futon; cars on the other hand slept outside.

The conference centre was also a place where good food was thrown away in massive amounts. Zuba had therefore taken to rescuing portions to feed him and his flatmate, Boy Kennedy, which meant they had more money to send to relatives and friends in their home countries. Their fridge was currently crammed with cooked lamb from a lavish dinner for an insurance company, lasagne from a shift at the Caledonian Hotel, whilst unrelated slabs of sticky toffee pudding, liberated from different restaurants, kept company inside a transparent bowl on their coffee table.

His initial dismay at being food-destroyer-in-chief had eventually mellowed to resignation. His first order to dispose of leftovers had been disconcerting, and he thought that  the sous-chef, was joking, when after a function to feed delegates of a conference on climate change, Alistair declared, that two wide containers of chicken should be put in the bucket.

The chef had sensed Zuba’s incredulity from his alarmed expression. He therefore explained the rationale behind the mass wastage; leftover food used to be given to the homeless until some sad bastard claimed that he got food poisoning after eating their salmon. There had been talk of a lawsuit.

Since chicken had always been a luxury, Zuba refused to carry out the order to dispose. He instead emptied the contents of the two trays into a green bin bag which he took home, leading to some strange glances from other passengers on Bus 33. The rescued pieces of chicken fed him and Boy Kennedy for a couple of weeks.

***

If you were lucky, you ate chicken twice a year in the home country. Once was during Christmas when masked devil parades were organised and singing children patrolled the neighbourhood in matching ashobi outfits. The other chicken-worthy occasion was Ramadan Pray-Day when Muslims celebrated the end of their period of fasting. Jollof rice, cassava leaves, groundnut soup and other delicacies were cooked and shared amongst households.

Back then, being the oldest boy-child of the family, Zuba was often tasked with slaughtering the single rooster which was saved for that particular occasion. On said occasion, he stood on the squawking bird’s wings, dug a hole in the ground with a sharp knife to collect the blood and then slit the throat. The chicken would jerk spasmodically as the blood oozed, the part of the ritual which he hated the most. His mother had reprimanded him for being squeamish, stressing that she expected him to embrace the duties of manhood. One chicken to feed his family of fourteen meant a meagre piece for Zuba, and as was customary, he got the neck which was awarded to him as compensation for slaying the fowl.

***

It was Boy Kennedy, the flatmate from Zimbabwe, who had advised him to work in kitchens. He reasoned that people in this part of the world took food very seriously and used every opportunity to eat out. He even made Zuba watch a couple of programmes on the television featuring animated chefs jabbering away over exotic creations. Zuba watched transfixed, being most bewildered when a beautiful chef with dark hair poured half a bottle of wine into a bubbling sauce. Surely alcohol was for drinking only?

***

With time though, he was sent almost exclusively to the conference centre where fridges and freezers were entire rooms, and cleaning them required wearing an oversized red jacket reserved for that purpose.

 On another occasion, he had to polish strangely-shaped knives which were apparently used to eat fish. He also received a crash course on how to operate huge bellowing machines used to wash pots and pans. He realised that a side plate was different from a saucer, and that some top quality cheeses had pungent smells that lingered. And then there were the perplexing concepts of starters and desserts which involved eating separate portions of food from different plates before and after the main meal.

When he therefore phoned home, his mouth was bursting with stories about life in the kitchens. There was for instance the drama of Hubert, the bald pastry chef, who was escorted from the premises by a couple of stiff security men. Hubert had screamed obscenities and smashed a stack of plates after hearing that he would not be getting a pay rise.  

Still buoyed at the prospect of owning a car, Zuba arrived home just after one. Surely, Alistair could not give him a car for free. Perhaps fatigue had addled the chef’s brain, shearing him of common sense. Nobody gave cars away.

He had the flat to himself, which meant that Boy Kennedy had taken himself to the Mambo Club at Tollcross. Zuba had been to the club a couple of times but hated the choking cigarette smoke which left his clothes stinking. And he also could not understand some of his fellow Africans who visited the club only to spend the entire evening acting like American rappers complete with fake drawled accents and baggy clothing. 

Boy Kennedy had been lucky enough to meet someone in the club though, a svelte woman with long yellow hair that reminded Zuba of bright raffia. The woman claimed that Boy Kennedy looked like Will Smith, and they were since then inseparable, Zuba often hearing them having loud sex through the wall.

After switching on the central heating, he emptied his camouflage backpack of the wide Tupperware container that accompanied him to all shifts. Today it contained condemned sausages and black pudding from breakfast. He had also wrapped up squashed chunks of cheesecake in foil paper.

He ate in front of the television, trawling the bright green teletext for news of back home. Manchester United were interested in signing Patrick Kluivert. Peace talks continued between the central government and rebel forces. He would buy a phone card and call home over the weekend. News of the car would make for good conversation.

***

As promised, Alistair, the sous-chef, arrived with the car the next day. The flat Zuba shared with Boy Kennedy was on the third floor, their living room window overlooking the court below. From his elevated position, he observed Alistair’s approach in the distance, his red hair distinct behind the steering wheel of a white car, which Zuba recognised as a Ford Uno.

Not bothering to lock the door, he hurried down the stairs to receive his car. The courtyard was deserted, the only occupant being a typical biting wind.  

On seeing Zuba, Alistair broke into a broad smile and beckoned him to get into the vehicle. Zuba welcomed the warmth of the car as he settled nervously on the seat which was covered in black and red tartan material. The sous-chef twisted a dial, dousing the voice of an animated radio presenter who was busy praising the qualities of a newly released pop song. Alistair was wearing a sleek leather jacket and a pair of grey jeans, and it was almost as if being out of his chef’s uniform had taken away his customary grumpiness. 

“Here she is mate! All yours. Missed the turning coming here or would have been a little earlier.”

“This belongs to me?” Zuba replied, running his hands along the dashboard which had accumulated a thin coat of dust.

“Absolutely. Got a new one, and this banger’s worth next to nothing now. Would maybe get fifty quid for it on Auto Trader, which is not worth the effort. So, you might as well have it, as long as you don’t mind your neighbours laughing at you. It is MOTd till next July, and I put in new brake pads just a couple of months ago. Runs smooth and engine’s only 1.4 so it does not drink a lot of fuel!”

After the chef’s departure, Zuba spent time exploring the car, turning dials and flicking switches. He was happiest at the fact that the vehicle had a basic stereo system that played CDs. Music was one of the few luxuries he had allowed himself since arriving in the new country, and he had managed to accumulate a respectable stack of mainly rap and reggae albums.

***

He showed the car to Boy Kennedy when he arrived home in the afternoon. The flatmate was very impressed, purring as he circled the vehicle, excitement dancing in his eyes.

“In this country there are opportunities for all,” Boy Kennedy pointed out as he settled on his haunches to inspect the vehicle’s tyres. “Do you see how we now live in the land of Betty’s Head?”

Sensing Zuba’s confusion, Boy Kennedy explained, “Betty is their Queen Elizabeth, and her head is on the pound notes we struggle for. So, this is her land. Imagine owning a car after being here for just three months! As long as we work hard and follow the law, nobody will disturb us. Our parents are not corrupt government ministers who steal public money, but today in this foreign country which has ice on the ground, we have opportunities! You the man who cleans kitchens now owns a car!”

***

Zuba took to eating in the car. He would heat liberated food from the kitchens in their old microwave and carry it down to the vehicle. He also took  CDs, which provided mood music.

On the first evening, he ate sea bass and mashed potatoes to the accompaniment of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. On another evening, Bob Marley’s Uprising provided the background to a tender pork joint. At other times, he fiddled with the radio, settling on random stations that produced music pleasing to his ears.

The white car remained uncomplicated, especially as he could not drive and as such did not have to buy fuel. He only once had to put water in its engine to ensure that the heating worked and kept him warm as he dined, the dashboard illuminated like a constellation.

***

In mid-December, the conference centre closed down for the Christmas holidays; yet, Zuba was offered shifts in the kitchens of an airport hotel. He danced across the living room after Marie, the narrow Gothic lady from the agency, explained in a light voice down the phone that he would receive triple pay for working on Christmas and New Year’s days. Boy Kennedy would be missing till the new year; Amanda, the girlfriend with the raffia hair, was spending the holidays with her family in Orkney and had invited him to travel up with her.

***

There was no public transport available after his early shift on Christmas day so the hotel provided a taxi. The driver was round and pleasant and on hearing that Zuba was from Africa mentioned that he had been on holiday to The Bahamas in the summer.

The Queen’s Speech was in its final lines when he switched on the television, and he stayed on his feet to listen to her message of hope and goodwill, observing that unlike on the pound notes, the crown was missing from her head.

He waited for the end of the speech before phoning home, whilst he watched rescued turkey and roast potatoes rotating in the microwave. The money he had sent earlier in the month through Western Union had been received by his mother who had cooked for all of their relatives. Everybody was well except little brother, Abu, who was laid low by a troublesome bout of malaria.

He ate in the car again, settling his plate on the passenger seat as he selected music appropriate for his meal – Brenda Fassie’s Memeza. The temperature gauge read two degrees and he adjusted the heating in the car accordingly. The turkey tasted bland and so he transferred his attention to the potatoes which were crisp and well-seasoned.  

***

The police woke him up on Boxing Day, their knocking pitched between apologetic and urgent. As he was led across the court into their waiting car, he could feel the neighbours’ eyes from behind curtains.

He was driven to the canal that ambled through a nearby housing estate at Wester Hailes. One of the police had to walk round to let him out, opening the door as if it was made out of crockery.

 Zuba’s white car was in the canal.

The vehicle was positioned as if it had attempted a somersault and landed on its head, the wheels facing the sky, the rusty undercarriage exposed in the dull morning light. The windows were smashed, broken glass strewn along the canal’s path like rough diamonds. Something sharp had been taken to the seats, the stuffing spread on the path like confetti, other bits floating in the half-frozen water. The CDs had been removed from the glove compartment and smashed underfoot, 2 Pac’s face on the cover of All Eyes On Me hidden beneath a surface of pulped plastic.

A policewoman took pictures of the car whilst talking to Zuba about insurance and how they would test the abandoned beer bottles for DNA. There had been a spate of car vandalism over the Christmas period. This happened almost every year and was the work of yobs who were bored and drank too much.

They promised to be in touch and returned Zuba home just in time for him to get ready for his Boxing Day shift.


Foday Mannah hails from Sierra Leone, currently lives in Scotland, and is employed as an English teacher. He holds an MSc in International Conflict and Cooperation from the University of Stirling and an MA with Distinction in Professional Writing from Falmouth University. In his writing, Foday seeks to represent the experiences of the remarkable people he encounters in life. He likewise explores and highlights the disproportionate use of power — both domestic and political. His short story, Amie Samba, was shortlisted and published for the 2019 Bristol Short Story Prize. Foday has also had pieces shortlisted and longlisted/highly commended for the Commonwealth, Bridport, Sean O’Faolain, Mo Siewcharran and Brick Lane writing competitions. He can be found at https://twitter.com/FodayMannah and https://www.instagram.com/foday_mannah/.

What you left behind follows you like

Shell Afrika migrants; it whispers

In your ear secret of your longings,

Its wishes in your skin warmth of the sun.


It’s in the mirror, your fathers face

Big nosed like elephants of the forest.

You know it like your mothers breast

In fainting memories, you believe it

Like your fathers voice faraway.


It cut across your vein that ‘Black Life

Matters’ you didn’t say it because you know

The future, that you are African

That you are the future.


Across the Mediterranean

I saw mass of apparitions paddling

With their breath on the Mediterranean,

Their oar of hope broken into mystery.

Faceless like shark feed dangling on aquarium.


Their boat like train moves upon rail

Of bones left behind in the benthic.

Mystery coil around them like python

Around its egg in nest like boat.


I hear them above the rising waves

Cursing the land that vomited them,

But my tongue if it be plenty like

Women’s hair cannot tell tales of

Afrika migrants on the Mediterranean.


Willow Warblers

We fly across seas to winter forest

But we shall never forget our nest

Under the Africa sun

Across the pathway many are shot

And their feathers scatter across

Lands of foreigners like songs of

Unknown language. Many are caught in cages

Like volcanoes in paintings.


 We must fly for better life says young birds;

But we remember our nest,

Where we hatched and gaze at green fields

Squawking tales of ancestral plumage

To all migrants the world is home but home

Is where we first grew our feather fore flight.


Owolusi Lucky is a Nigerian poet. His poems have been published by University of North Carolina press, Noctivagant Press, and America Diversity Report. He uses poetry to appreciate the beauty, history, culture and struggle of Africa. When he is not writing, he delights in  philosophy. He can be found at https://africanmighty.art.blog/, https://twitter.com/Mighty_scribe, and https://www.facebook.com/owolusi.

I was born in a city that is badmouthed by outsiders. To an onlooker peering in, I’d say “you are too far removed to see this city’s greatness.” For years I proudly mentioned my ‘roots’ and wore it like a sweater I never want to take off. Because in this city I saw my family’s history, of migrants from a small island that settled here. They brought with them recipes, remedies and a resilient attitude. In the buildings and parks, I see the places where my family lived and survived for decades. Through the other migrant enclaves, I was blessed to never feel too different… until I left. Returning years later offered me prescriptive distant lenses. I saw a different place. Where white people ran in yoga pants and walked their dogs in neighborhoods previously demarcated dangerous. I saw erected concrete and steel adorn a modicum of the city, which welcomed tourists and closed local businesses. Never would I imagine Newark to be a tourist destination or a dwelling for New Yorkers to squat at for cheaper rents. Until they found their next trendy city. This process displaced so many communities. In their gentrified beauty, I peek through and scratch beneath the polished façade. It’s all a perfectly painted picture for few to watch in amusement while we’re the ones who maintain its polish… we are the No-rkers.


Keishla Rivera-Lopez is a poet, writer and scholar. She received a PhD in American Studies from the Graduate School-Newark at Rutgers University where she was a 2019-2020 Dean’s Dissertation Fellow. She was born and raised in Newark, NJ to Puerto Rican migrants and reflects on what it means to be a child of diaspora in her scholarship and writing. Currently, Dr. Rivera-Lopez is an Assistant Professor of English and Latinx Literatures and Cultures at Millersville University. Keishla enjoys writing poetry, short-stories, and essays from her travel and everyday experiences as a Puerto Rican woman. She also enjoys experimenting with different sazones and sofritos, hiking, dancing and traveling. She can be found at https://twitter.com/Ohh_Kei

I would return almost three decades later

to a corner supermarket – my mother’s room.

A Telkom telephone booth

hangs outside the walls that contained her childhood.

The glass that connected my mother’s eyes to the world

was broken.

The last place she slept in before she was married

stored rats and rice.

The roof of my grandfather’s home was sewn in rust and

red paint.


And still the corners of my eyes clasped these parched walls

with the memory of my mother’s eyes.


Dear Kliptown

A lament to the multiracial South African township that disintegrated with democracy.


I was told of a time in the 1980’s

before the shades of difference

had tinted my mother’s lens.  

There are a few accounts of living

that decorate her eyes.

This colour seemed to be

the happiest of her life.

The shiny, brass taps. 

Morning greetings flowed around communal grooming.

No fence guarded the contents of your neighbour’s heart.

Because you didn’t need to guess what they held; you

were in their homes at least three times a day.

Once, your uncle found me eating chicken feet

in our neighbour’s house.


Hopscotch patterns directed adult footprints.

Freedom focused adult feet.


My mother understood how seamless joy felt

before the call to privilege was announced.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Masoodah Mohamed is a South African woman, lover of literature, and survivor of tragedy who weaves her emotions into metaphors and euphemisms. She is a speech therapist and audiologist who graduated from the University of Witwatersrand. She is currently pursuing an honours in psychology. She believes poetry can be used as a therapeutic tool and  uses her work to advocate for social justice and against gender-based violence. Her work has been published in Kalahari Review, Odd Magazine, and Second Skin Magazine. It has been featured in Yesterdays and Imagining Realities: An Anthology of South African Poetry. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/masoodah.mohamed, and https://www.instagram.com/masoodahmohamed/.

Indentured labour brought my ancestors to the Caribbean

I often think about if they even wanted to be on those ships

Never to see or be seen by their families who remained 

Their crowded bodies stuffed together 

For One Hundred and Twelve excruciating days 

The heartbreak of having to toss the dead overboard

All for the British and their new form of slavery


Generations pass; language is lost

Wavered autonomy and misplaced paperwork take effect

A disconnect from the ‘motherland’ is formed

New traditions and a cultural melting pot give way for a new way of life


Like many 

I do not know where in South Asia my ancestors were taken from generations ago

While much was lost in the pages of history

— a steady thread that connects me remains

When I eat a bowl of hot dhal and rice

Or smell the fresh pholourie my mom makes

I feel the thread grow brighter

And I feel a connection to a land and I’ve never known


 

Angie Budhwa is an Indo-Caribbean Canadian poet who is fond of words and stories of all kinds. She believes that stories, both big and small, reflect the hearts of cultures and connects the past to the present. She enjoys writing about folklore, historical figures, and existentialism. Her most recent work can be found in Amble Mag and the Nzuri Journal of Coastline College. She can be found at https://twitter.com/AngieDarshanie?s=09.

Harriet Powers (1837-1910)


It may be imagined that Harriet stayed close

to her roots – remaining in the state of Georgia

after gaining freedom. Yet her quilting patterns

illustrate past family in Benin, West Africa –

her ancestors present in the cloth strips design

and in the asymmetry of scene borders.


Some did imagine and said, that she, ex-slave,

must of course be illiterate – she, who later in life

read the Bible more than ever in her church group,

and wrote about her well-known Bible Quilt,

viewed in the colored section of the Athens Exposition,

each of fifteen squares a story from the Bible.


We can surely envision that she loved quilt-making,

creating at least five, between sewing clothes

to earn money to raise her children.

Perhaps then she wore her special apron

we can see in a photograph, embellished

with celestial bodies: a moon, sun, shooting star.


Windrush Generations

I. 1948 U.K. Need

So many men and women

lost

in World War II

So much labor

lost.


So many Jamaicans

sold

on a cheap ticket

on the Windrush

to Britain.


So many Parliamentaries

scared

dark-skinned people

might

keep coming.



II. Britain Scandal 80 Years Later

Home Secretary

threats, orders –

Windrush immigrants

barred from work

some detained

some deported

some denied healthcare –


some came as children

no passport

declared “illegal”

lost housing

lost benefits,

became destitute.


And it was

Paulette Wilson’s

newspaper interview

slowed

mistreatment.

Brought

eventual compensation.


III. Jamaica

Windrush people

deported

some retired

to warmth

built

a dream house, garden –

fresh mangos, bananas,

in lush greenery,


but problem mountains:

air heavy

with envy, jealousy.

Windrush people

not British enough


not Jamaican enough,

and Delroy Walker

was one

of more than two hundred

murdered,

the wide blood splatter

left all over

his new house.


Lavinia Kumar’s latest books are Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Women, Women: Soldiers,
Spies of Revolutionary and Civil Wars, No Longer Silent: the Silk and
Iron of Women Scientists
, and Beauty. Salon. Art. She wil have new poems soon in SurVision Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in US, Irish, & UK
publications. She can be found at https://laviniakumar.org/

Six million ravens bent

and blackened the sky’s borders

reshaping the landscape as they went

bending their wings to a new world order,

the weight of which no one could measure.


They were choking on a poisonous air

disguised as the law of the land.

Whenever they’d rise up from there,

Jim Crow would beat them down again.

Lesson learned; the law is not your friend.


They packed their dreams and fled

carrying the battered and bruised

while arrows cleaved open hearts that bled.

But this time they would choose

the mode of transportation they would use.


They fled the back-breaking cotton fields

to find a new indentured servitude await

up north in the stockyards and steel mills.

If you died, on a concrete floor you’d lay

until a pine box carried you away. 


When the sun arced in the summer sky,

to return to the old South they sought

smoking Lucky Strikes and riding high

in the shiny new chariots they’d bought

to show the South what the new world hath wrought.


Wanda Williams Jackson is a Chicago native who began writing poetry, short stories, and essays as a youth. Currently, she lives with her husband in San Diego. Her poetry has been featured in two volumes of the San Diego Poetry Annual. She is a freelance content writer, and she is working on a novel. After reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, she became interested in the Great Migration and its impact on her parents who migrated to Chicago from the deep south in the 1940s. In 2020, she wrote Migration, her first full-length book of poetry.

I didn’t know

when I saw the pale-skinned stranger

it was the end

of Everything


I didn’t know

I had already seen my mother’s belly

jelly with laughter

for the last time


I didn’t know

I’d never again feel the comforting thrum

of my father’s musical bass

as I lay next to his heart


I didn’t know

my friends and I would no longer chase and

play at the hunters

we thought we would become (We wouldn’t)


I didn’t know

I’d never again walk tall, strong and free

Instead, I shuffled, iron-yoked

on the long trek to the door of no return


I didn’t know

the terrible vastness of the endless sea

dwarfing the mighty river

where once I’d played


I didn’t know

a boat could be so huge and yet so narrow

a deadly prison

for my quivering form


I didn’t know

how much smaller I could squeeze my body

while failing to avoid the waste

of all those wasted lives


I didn’t know

I was now less – and more – than cattle

to be prodded, sold and branded

in the strangest of markets


I didn’t know

I’d lose the name I got from kings

to become someone

I barely recognized


I didn’t know

the legends that soothed my youth

would become whispered myths

reminding of what was lost


I didn’t know

I’d be used to create a fractured dynasty

with no connection

to the land I left


I didn’t know

I’d never see my home again

nor would my children

my children’s children

my children’s grandchildren’s grandchildren


If I had known

I would have stayed unseen

and fled that pale-skinned stranger

But I didn’t know


Sharon Hurley Hall (she/her) is an anti-racism activist, writer and educator. She is a British/Barbadian national committed to doing her part to eliminate racism one article at a time, and is the creator and publisher of an anti-racism newsletter. She is the author of Exploring Shadeism, an analysis of the colorism phenomenon in Barbados and the wider Caribbean, and co-produces and co-hosts The Introvert Sisters podcast. She won three Bronze awards for poetry in the 2019 NIFCA Literary Arts competition. She can be found at https://www.antiracismnewsletter.com/, https://sharonhh.com/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonhh/, https://twitter.com/shurleyhall, and https://www.instagram.com/shurleyhall/.

We are the first ones

Who went to Kemet

From the Kingdom of Kush

Without offending our ancestors

For we were not alone

We met the Baka people

The first ones

Dark-skinned as we are

The Baka call us Kaka

For we have the same

Ancestors


Then we got in trouble

We fought wars

And called the Creator

Who said words

And became alligator

My bridge is my savior

For I will make

My genealogy after

I am safe


Then the white man

Came

They took me

And put me

In prison

My name

They threw away

My tongue

They forbade

But, for God’s sake

Mbock will bring me

Back home

For our journey

Will not stop here

We shall go back

To where we started


Kol ɛ loŋ

Mina bɛ ɛ bot ɛ mɛkɛn

Ná tɔ pɛ Kɛmɛt

Dus pɛ mɛkoozi ɛ Kus

Aa kal bɛtat

Aa tɔ mina met

Mina bela Ibayaka

Bot ɛ mɛkɛn

Bɛ na bhibhil bot

Daa mina bɛl


Baka djoo mina ɛ Kaka

Itɛɛ náá

Mina bɛ ɛ nɛ ikaka

Ngɔt


Wɔ bee mina bela mitɛp

Djoo Zɛɛb-Mɛkaake

Wɔ gwa nyɛ zɛ ke

Nyɛ zɛ liiza kol

Dhaar yam yɛ ɛ salaam

Mɛ ni ka baal

Dhaar bhis cikam


Wɔ bee mitaga

Zɛ ghɛɛ mɛ

Wa mɛ i mbok

Nɔɔ din ɛ lam

Mɔs

Nɔɔ ɛyɔŋ ɛ lam

Pɛɛ

Di náá

I gu ka náá, Mbock

Waa zyɛ zɛ bulal mɛ

Pɛ daa lam

Itɛɛ náá

Cyer yina

Aani sik wak

Mina aabula

Pɛ mɛkɛn


Peresch Aubham Edouhou was born in Makokou (Gabon) in 1993. He is a Bekwel, Kota and French speaker, who graduated in Letters (Portuguese-English) from Pelotas Federal University (UFPel) in 2019. He is currently enrolled in Rio Grande Federal University’s Master of Letters Program (Language Studies) in Brazil where he has been studying African languages and literatures.  He has been writing poems and traditional short stories in the vernacular — African languages. Among his poems in Bekwel language are “Dhaar” (“Genealogy”) and “Din yɛ ɛ Dis” (“Name is Eye”) in Jornal RelevO, and a short anthology of seven poems in Revista Njinga. He can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009123511450.

   From Susan Harbage Page’s  photograph “Laredo Riverbank With Cross.”

A cross in the act of falling apart,

one broken twig stuck upright in the dirt,

another across, its bark peeling off

like wounds on open arms,

one scrap of paper still attached,

words once written there

now bleached away.


A lonely riverbank,

and nothing but those two sticks

tied with a scavenged strip of plastic,

its soiled blue echoing

a glimpse of river water.

Other than that, the colors are muted

duns, yellows, no other sign of human life

except perhaps vanishing footsteps.


Perhaps other scraps were carried off

by wind, then water,

who knows how many they were,

what shreds of a family, what lone child

passed here and left this brief

devotional candle.


The cross is del otro lado, on the northern

side of the forbidden river,

Gracias a Dios –it could be saying–

thank you, sweet Virgin, Virgencita

de Guadalupe, here we set our feet

on firm land again.


But so often people plant a cross

by a road where someone was shot,

by a railroad where someone has fallen,

by a river where someone has drowned.


Enriqueta Carrington is a Mexican poet, literary translator, and mathematician. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as a translator. Her translations into English include five poetry collections by authors from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Israel. Her own poems in English and Spanish, as well as her translations, have appeared in Rattapallax, Blue Unicorn, 14 by 14, The New Formalist, The Society of Classical Poets Journal, Descant (Canada) and several other journals and anthologies. She is a member of the editorial committee of the poetry journal US1 Worksheets.

I

How do I leave the city of my umbilical cord,

at the sound of morning prayers, when the muezzin says the salat,

before the sun revisits my eyes under the eastern hangar of life?

An ending coming; I can feel its throb,

but my aorta does not tell me when the last trumpet will sound,

nor the path before me where the sinkhole lays its ambush.

How do I shut the last door and open a trade link with alien

            bays?

Or cross the year in the dinghies of future months

and step across the frontiers like seasonal egrets?

How do I abandon the skeletons buried in my hipbone?

Pick my cells of wilful chromosomes,

or chase the rascally child of my wandering to

the den of a famished road?

How do I leave the city to its graffiti of slime,

flee its bugle of infant cry

and disappear in the fading line of distant guitar riff?

Freebies of beauties are waiting by the distant station

like a necklace of motley colours,

their heels like minted hoofs, their lipstick like the nude

            testimonies

of orange flowers that fall like leisurely hailstones.

How do I rein in the lust in my eyes?

How do I, like a miserly coffer, close my eyelids to let evil pass,

but miss the angel of love that is dreamed of?

How do I leave the housewife that has hennaed a rosebud on her lap,

the very one who awaits the daylight of my lover’s look-in,

although her voice chafes the field of my peace?

How do I pack my old feelings in a hencoop

and follow the wind to the mountain head?

II

There are so many people the city has hurt,

many leaving the darkness of the city on horseback for a foreign night,

in the absence of known skies, forging a galaxy with

            constellations of fireflies,

and trafficking a homeland in rucksacks and amnesiac songs.

A multitude camp under the brown awning of a season that

            never changes,

inventing a shift of weather with theatrics of wonders and

narratives of mimic clouds,

their aspiring vines wounded in the skirmishes of trellis.

There are many more emigrating into themselves,

like rains of anguish falling backwards to the sky,

or trees growing inwards, their leaves forgotten in the

alcove of their cells.

Many are disappearing from sight like roads that lose their way,

so many leaving their houses and entering the bitter metaphor

of a stranger’s poem,

to martyr a story already weak with tragic dénouement.

Why should I descend with them the stairs of exile without

            the luggage of my soul?

Why should I abandon the beauty under the winter of wrinkled years,

and leave a linear sadness for a joyous crossroads?


Kunle Okesipe currently teaches postcolonial literature at Igbinedion University, Nigeria. His adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters won an Association of Nigerian Authors Adaptation contest. He also won an ANA prize for his adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God. His poetry has appeared in adda (Journal of Commonwealth Writers), Mediterranean Poetry, The Tiger Moth Review, Moonchild Magazine, The Lake, The Rush and others. He can be found at https://twitter.com/ogunnian, https://www.instagram.com/ogunnian/, and https://www.facebook.com/kunle.okesipe.