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Image by Benjamin Réthoré via Flickr.

when Queen Pokou fled ghana
the mouth of the Comoe River opened
to say “give me your child”—
the choice between nation & son so close
you could see the river’s rage shining
a deep black/blue, the color of Pokou’s womb
when her child escaped her.
the story goes so many ways.
you could say it escapes time.
after Queen Pokou fed her son
to the river, the backs of pink hippopotamuses rose
for her people to cross. some say she followed them
across the river, some say she jumped
into the water, morphing into a fish-woman, breathing
water into her son’s lung so he could live a new, wet life.

in a swimming pool on the other side of the world,
Pokou wraps her new body around me, calls me
the little blue girl—her words full
of chlorine and the song of a child’s voice.
i don’t want her name for me, nor the water she bring.
i want land black folks tended to for centuries,
i want feet. in the hood, i come to the pool
to cool off, to undo the perm in my hair.
i fear the deep end cause i ain’t tall yet
& my feet slip at the bottom.
i tell Pokou that water be so much pain for me.
She laughs but there is no sound.
a bubble escapes from the back of her throat,
floats up into a philly sky, becomes light,
then vanishes.

 

 

About the Author:

Sojourner Ahebee, an undergraduate at Stanford University, writes poems about African diaspora identities and the eternal question of home and belonging. Her work has been published in The Atlantic and Winter Tangerine Review, and featured by The Academy of American Poets. In 2013 she served the United States as a National Student Poet, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets creating original work. She was invited to the White House by former First Lady Michelle Obama to receive her award. Her debut poetry chapbook, Reporting from the Belly of the Night, was released in August 2017. She calls Philadelphia and Abidjan home.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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