Welwitschia

This poem won Editor's Choice in the 2020 2-Day Poem Contest

I was born in the gut of Blackness
from between my mother’s particular thighs
her waters broke upon blue-flowered linoleum
and turned to slush in the Harlem cold


—“To the Poet Who Happens to Be Black and the Black Poet Who Happens to Be a Woman,” Audre Lorde

root water poured over two hills
pooling in an inlet at the bottom
she palmed pipe-like masses
into the gentle roar of spring
water and vinegar in a pot on the stove
simmer, into canning, into lakes
that dry up on her watch
like the curling fibres found in peristeronic caves
I cursed the land and she strengthened it with brine.
I was born in the gut of Blackness.

milk me this muscle, siphon distilled
gin, rum-running, bootlegging
to survive, her limbs bent habitual, inborn.
like a wood wagon down a dirt road she carried buckets
on a carapace next to her body wrapped in lethargy,
a mahogany shelf held a beeswax candle lit
the cigarette she pulled to her lips
as the orange ring crawled yellow to ruby.
pages of an unread paperback called her name
from between my mother’s particular thighs

the deep lines in her right hand favoured an octothorpe
carved by constant brick-laying, wood-shaving, field labour
hardened her eyes. Mama, are you there?
the sun sets blush rose to eggplant, stacked lilac purple
dust catches her cheek.
I watched her pull red brick from a bin
lay clay and plaster to dry in sheets at midnight
the sun beat her skin tough but glowing
a pin prick balloon bursts in bright colours
her waters broke upon blue-flowered linoleum

hair haloed her face arms wrap to hold
cold bottles amber-filled
sprawled three feet wide her jaw
clenched and gritting
found two seasons later
she drew the curtains as the lace covered night drifted
out of focus, her eyes lowered on me wrapped
in wool
and again, the sun dipped low—
and turned to slush in the Harlem cold

Published online July 07 2020.

This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.