She Gets a Break

for Wọgọwanyị

Great-grandmother was a woman
sold twice, ransomed twice
from slavers on the way to Calabar or Bonny
dispossessed widow at the mercy of the world

In duty she was bound twice—
first, by marriage to a man who died young,
then by the noose of gratitude and levirate traditions
to the man who ransomed her

No, thrice was she bound
for between Man One and Man Two
she bore eight, nine, or ten children
It was give give give and little take

When do you get to belong to yourself?

Maybe this is why I dally
and do not trot towards
See, Great-grandmother is in the marrow of my bones,
the whites of my eyes;
I know the desire to fly and snooze

Freedom smells in the air at the tip of my nose
Sovereignty curls around my gut like snakes
Rest beckons me over like a worn-out traveller
I am to recline, to stretch, to flex and just be

I can see her at the back of my eyes
Great-grandmother lifting her right arm in heartsore prayer
making a pact with life for
liberty, succour and rest
for herself and those to come after

And so I live free in answer

Image: Photo by Unknown, via Bird Watching HQ.