by Phylise Smith
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.”