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Photo credit: Keila Hötzel. Source: Unsplash.


the legend was not always true

there was a time when empires

were built on dreams and prophesies

and palaces held together


with no more than spit and mud

and wealth no hand had touched

sprang from the earth


and so it was with ours although

the whispers in our trees told their own story

the rumour that our coasts were made of gold


luring distant appetites with myths

of rolling hills, unfolding mountains

in which, so said the wind, we hid their wealth


did they call themselves an army

because they were their king’s

outstretched arm?


did they think that when they reached for us

pierced us

gold would spill?


they pried our secret places

claimed the stores between our thighs

the chasms in our hands, the mines in our molars


every hair was sold: this was their magic

that our kin watched them leave with us

and come back from the coast, hands heavy with treasure


and in this way the lie became the truth

that we whom they had touched

had turned to gold




The Prodigal Daughter

I come back but you’re no longer here

your footprints in the sand have washed away

the wind carves other faces in the cliffs


perhaps you gave up trying to return

perhaps you lost your way on the Atlantic

fell into the belly of a monster, or its king

became the gale that tears through bloated sails


a woman holds my face,

calls me by her niece’s name,

smiles at me a long-forgotten light.


her fingers seem to burn

when she realises her mistake.

Oh! Sorry, me babaa, she says,

you look like someone else.


my body is a vessel of many blended earths


I bear

the eyes of their daughters

the hairs of their aunts

the lips of their sisters

the thighs of their wives

the breasts of their mothers

the tongues of their dead


now I know why I’m often known

by the same misheard names




a child of Britain, they see

in me the vessels

that once bore their women





Isabelle Baafi is a writer, poet and filmmaker. Her work has been published in Allegro, Moko Magazine, Litro, Kalahari Review and elsewhere. She was recently admitted to the London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme. She is currently working on her debut poetry collection.

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