Upon Returning by Phylise Smith

Oct 22, 2018

Once again
I enter the country of my ancestors

stand on sere vegetation both familiar
and forgotten, never promised to me.

Music from tin-corrugated stalls caress my ears.
I pretend to buy bracelets and masks

but really come to be present in this world.
Boys scream, “Did you know Tupac, Michael Jackson?”

A woman braids her crying child’s hair.
The hum of it — visible

blessed and unblessed.
Why am I here?

What would have happened
if my great-grand ancestors remained?

There is no nimba to welcome me.
No jali to acknowledge my visit.

My arms and feet between two worlds,
I wait to find links of tenderness.

I bow my head, pray.
The woman with the crying child approaches.

“You’re home,” she says.
“Let me braid your hair.”

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