Yamaye – The Land Of Wood and Water

At seven I’m amazed by the grass
that snaps shut when touched
and how dark the night is.

Yamaye calls me often,
inviting me to befriend a mongrel dog
to wear yellow again, to allow my skin to ripen,

her voice older than stones,
warm like Nana’s hands
guiding me across the street:

‘come, come, si’dung, ease off di pressure’

her soft grip imprinted on me
like the sticky aftertaste
of genip on my tongue.

I don’t return until I’m 24,
she had lots to teach me
first, that I am actually English,

that everywhere outside my skin is foreign,
that safety inside my skin is not guaranteed,
and that there are times, as a woman,

that I will have to snap shut.

Ioney Smallhorne

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