Rigorous
Inaugural Issue
Volume One, Issue 1


Poems by Octavia McBride-Ahebee


1822/2014

have you forgotten me
that Charleston girl
wrapped in a re-imagined rice sack
standing in an angel oak soaking in moss
watching through the swamp’s own mourning
them hang our Denmark
with no prayer or coin to take him over

kingfishers, flycatchers, delirious with lost
conspirators like me in Vesey’s scheme of flight
chaperoned my exit from you
bound to an island of Providence-Liberia
mean with fevers and stakes already claimed


it is me, your daughter, pushed through centuries of trial
lying here in a wrapper I used to dance in
to let fall when I claimed a lover
to let shield me against the wanted advances
of the harmattan and rainy season

I am lying here at the foot of a baobab
older than what we share
lying here with a plague and my own daughter
on the magnanimous back of the earth
waiting for you to harvest your memory
to recognize the long-legged girl
on the arms of that Charleston oak
looking at what we used to be




I. Praise Song for the Gravediggers

I crawl between sitting angels
and ghosts unsure of new destinations
some still clothed in scraps of pagne
wax-stained,
still babbling in brilliant colors the proverbs of our sages
pagne full of palm prints
of lovers
unwilling
to let go
I ascend to sit in the broken lap of Mary
long abandoned by her son and lover
in a graveyard of red dirt
the color of prostrated magic
bountiful and hungry
I sit with my bird called Paradise
in King Tom
shielded by a cotton tree whose bloom’s color
mirror the death bags
with no names
sealed from all life
I sing to my brothers
rubber-booted, gloved in the palladium of yellow latex
open-faced, wearing t-shirts of good will
armed with garden shovels meant to furrow the soil
to feed a belly
now used to part the earth
for the unwashed,
the un-kissed,
the disinfected
bodies
still contagious with bewilderment
I sing to them
in Krio, in Mende, in Limba,
in Kissi, in Kula, in Temne
in Susu

Praise be to you


Work by Octavia McBride-Ahebee has appeared in many journals and anthologies including For Harriet, Raising Lilly Ledbetter; Women Poets Occupy the Workplace, Yellow Medicine, South Philly Fiction, Blackberry Magazine, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Kindling, Damazine; A Literary Journal of the Muslim World, Fingernails Across The Chalkboard: Poetry And Prose on HIV/AIDS From the Black Diaspora, Under Our Skin: Literature of Breast Cancer, Sea Breeze- A Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing, The Journal of the National Medical Association, Art in Medicine Section, International Quarterly; Faces of the Americas and the Beloit Poetry Journal. Her poetry collections include Assuming Voices and Where My Birthmark Dances.




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