Once when I walked into a room
my eyes would seek out the one or two black faces
for contact or reassurance or a sign
I was not alone
now walking into rooms full of black faces
that would destroy me for any difference
where shall my eyes look?
Once it was easy to know
who were my people.
If we were stripped of all pretense
to our strength
and our flesh was cut away
the sun would bleach all our bones
as the face of my black mother
was bleached white by gold
does not measure me?
I do not believe
our wants have made all our lies
Under the sun on the shores of Elimina
a black man sold the woman who carried
my grandmother in her belly
he was paid with bright yellow coins
that shone in the evening sun
and in the faces of her sons and daughters.
When I see that brother behind my eyes
his irises are bloodless and without colour
his tongue clicks like yellow coins
tossed up on this shore
where we share the same corner
of an alien and corrupted heaven
and whenever I try to eat
of easy blackness as salvation
I taste the colour
of my grandmother’s first betrayal.
I do not believe
have made our lies
But I do not whistle his name at the shrine of Shopana
I do not bring down the rosy juices of death upon him
nor forget Orishala
is called the god of whiteness
who works in the dark wombs of night
forming the shapes we all wear
so that even the cripples and dwarfs and albinos
are sacred worshipers
when the boiled corn is offered.
in the face of history
I have forgiven myself
for the white meat
we all consumed in secret
before we were born
we shared the same meal
when you impale me
upon your lances of narrow blackness
before you hear my heart speak
mourn your own borrowed blood
your own borrowed visions.
Do not mistake my flesh for the enemy
do not write my name in the dust
before the shrine of the god of smallpox
for we are all children of Eshu
god of chance and unpredictable
and we each wear many changes
inside our skin.
Armed with scars
in many different colors
I look in my own faces
as Eshu’s daughter crying
if we do not stop killing
the other in ourselves
the self that we hate
soon we shall all lie
in the same direction
and Eshidale’s priests will be very busy
they who alone can bury
all those who seek their own death
by jumping up from the ground
and landing upon their heads.
1. Orishala: another name for Obatala, Yoruba god of creation. The worshipers of Obatala must wear white clothes and eat white food.
2. Elimina; seaport town in Southern Ghana, founded by Portuguese traders.