by Omotara James

How do I love1 this body?
Cradle it in gauze, like a third
degree burn? My mother loves2 my fat
to be covered, specifically
the affected areas:
arms, belly, back and thighs.
The darker the meat, the more
vulnerable to light. Her hands,
the first to sheathe and swaddle.
Her wrists, weaving the inaugural
spells. Her fingers, holding the spoon
I open my mouth to tell the story
of wound. Poem, I am lost inside you.
How do I begin, again? Wo counsels
to imagine the portal that leads home,
what it might look like. I think: sun.
I see: shadowy basement door frame,
mandalas of mold and the ex-lover3
who said she loved4 how her skin looked
against mine. Who devoured my dark
fruit like a worm. Who spews my light
silk, still. Can one ever undo a spell?
Part of my father believes
I might still be a doctor, a model
or both. His foggy eyes a-glitter with
the sparkle of an infinitely crushed
mirror. You see, he fancies himself
a sculptor. Tells me, my proportions
are perfect. Would love5 to see me
finally do it. Damn it. Love6 myself
enough to lose— loosen what hangs
around my masterpiece. Gazing
across the whole of me, he grins
“It is your time,” every time.

1 see: enter
2 see: applies pressure to or requires
3 see: usurper of truth
4 see: by comparison
5 see: imagine his triumph
6 see: honor

Omotara James is the author of the chapbook, “Daughter Tongue,” selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants. Her recent honours include a 92Y Discovery Prize and being shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in POETRY, The Paris Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Currently, she lives, teaches and edits in NYC.