Imprisoned, I lay there mummified by his will and my own hands,
buried already in the coffin I let him lay me in, my body hollow, my voice a thing lost,
lost to time gone when under the shade of a coolie plum tree, I was free on the page,
words sweet on the air, words mingling with mango blossoms,
lost to time when reciting dub poetry, and singing mento rhythms was natural,
and no one say words like boonoonoonoos ain’t belong in this foreign place,
lost to time when I lay on my stomach and write and write just for me
and ain’t no one else voice but my own inside my head.
Now, new words from my sisters awaken me,
my sisters, dark like me, delivering me from this desolate silence.
My sisters show them own self and me worlds I leave behind long time before.
My sisters with them voices raised up call out to me to open my eyes:
Rise up! So, them all can see they ain’t destroy you, gial!
My sisters like river maids and water spirits guide me,
unwrapping each diseased strip from my body.
My sisters baptize me naked in still, green waters.
My sisters sing to me tales that travel far-far from our motherland.
My sisters tell me of women what transform them own selves into fish,
women who does shed them skin, then put them on again whenever them damn well pleased.
Their stories were a transfusion, purifying his venom from my veins.
These women make me a crown of water lilies, of bamboo leaves, of Poinciana blossoms.
These women feed me coconut jelly and conch flesh, and protect me
from future searings with words cool like aloe vera balm.
These women instruct me to sing often of home
no matter what him want to say, no matter what any of them want to say:
Sing in your sweet dialect, gial. Nuh mind. Sing loud and long and boisterous.
Sing to help the shame-ladies-dem what close them leaves into themselves at every sound.
Sing about Kumina and Jonkunu and Pocomania and grandmothers you never even get fi know.
Girl child, remember, remember who you are.
Wandeka Gayle is a Jamaican writer, visual artist, and currently the Visiting Assistant Professor of Fiction at Southern Utah University. She will be an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Spelman College beginning in August 2019. She has received writing fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She received her PhD in English with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Sunday Gleaner, the Southwestern Review, Transition, Kweli, Pleiades, Solstice Literary Magazine, midnight & indigo, Interviewing the Caribbean, aaduna, Susumba, Moko, and others.