by Daria-Ann Martineau
“Dear Mama Africa” [i]
I was seven when I first heard the Click Song.
In dance class my feet first grazed World
music. Xhosa steps where I could not bend my tongue.
Qongqothwane—tonal, older than verse. Mother
language knocking. My limbs stretched far as African
drums, the voice of our first home.
Your syllables a knocking beetle, chant a homing
bird exiled, returned only in song
to evolving and ancient South Africa,
birthing hips of the world.
Your lullaby in our first mother’s
Each diphthong tongued
healing, until you could return.
You only wished to bury your mother—
lost a whole country. Song
moving you on through the world.
What it means to have a voice that carries Africa.
Miriam, healer’s daughter, the West’s whole African
vision in your elusive tongue.
Did they know you hummed of witch doctors? This world
you turned toward your home?
Medicine music at once singing
to free your people, your mother
country. Voice so vast they called you Mama
witch-doctor beetle, striking continents in song.
Though I may never lift my tongue
like yours, my steps point me home
to a beginning across a fractured world,
Most languages of the world
draw on the root, Mama,
to name the woman who is our first home.
Woman, what would I ever know of Africa
but pain if not for the dance of your tongue,
the hard road beaten in your song?
Your beetle steps knocking at the world’s past and future, at Africa,
mother who chanted it, clicking your healing tongue,
melody beating a nation’s triumph, the road home in your song.
[i] The “Click Song” is a Xhosa folk song popularized by Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba. It is sung at weddings and tells of a knocking beetle, which is supposed to bring the couple good fortune. Children also use this beetle to point the way home.
Daria-Ann Martineau was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a Pushcart-nominated poet with an MFA in Poetry from New York University. She is an alumna of several writing conferences including Bread Loaf and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Her poems have appeared in Anomaly, Narrative, and The Collagist, among others. She is the founder of PRINT- Poets Reclaiming Immigrant Narratives & Texts.
by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke
My mother wants the dead to go away,
tired of how they pop up among the list of the living,
in whatever the last profile picture they selected
not knowing it was the last. Perhaps next to last
because they’d been thinking about giving up
social media, eventually, or perhaps not everything,
perhaps just the games
of colorful chains and timers,
hoping for a boost from friends.
There’d be one more picture before that, right?
One more after they’d lost the weight,
one more after they got those partials,
one more after the tan lines faded,
but certainly not the last, forever floating
on a yellow raft in someone’s backyard pool.
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, originally from Columbus, Ohio, lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she edits confidential government documents. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and Drunk Monkeys. She serves as a reader for Emrys.
This poem previously appeared in Drunk Monkeys.
by Carrie Chappell
—for Karen Dalton
When I ask for
She brings me
(It’s an accident to need her)
&, when I
pick at grasses,
She graces my
With her picking,
as if she combs
The rabbit of her
With my white-haired
(& I am grim with grammar)
When I brush the
Of my history,
Pierce me from
tree holes, black
Crow me to new
This is the deep
Of her look, the
sap of her smirk.
(For she will stick to you)
When I see her
walk a hill,
She flings off
She is to rove. This is the crook
In her, the
She won’t be
When I go to love
her, I see I’ve already
Sucked her dry,
& she is shooting up.
She is shooing me
Shot with beyond.
(In her wilderness is wilderness is wildernesses)
She dreams where
few women sleep,
Runs where few
When she parts
her lips, she cracks
My cabin floorboards wide open.
Carrie Chappell is a writer, translator, editor, and educator. Some of her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, cream city review, FORTH Magazine, Harpur Palate, Leveler, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, SWWIM, and those that this. Her lyric and book essays have been published in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, The Rupture, and Xavier Review. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Carrie is interested in the exploration of feminine personae and the narration of lives of women as they confront conflicting nostalgia for and injury perpetuated by Western structures of prejudice, particularly those apparent in her homeland of The U.S. American South.
by Brittanie Sterner
Here are feet on the floor of a plane over Omaha:
Here are swatches of ground turning into ground
Here is voice mail from an unknown number
Here is every computer-generated test
Here is waiting with glass
Here is middle-night
Here are foreheads touching here are hands in space
Here is rope
Here is the braid that makes the rope
Here is a death one day
Here is another death
Here is another death
Here is perched investment
Here are plot equations from above
Here are characters for land and love
Here is unstoppable weather
Here is a bowl of ocean
Here is food digesting
Here is top of the bottom
Here is morning, again
Here is wake with a ship on the tongue
Here is a mouth of fog
Here are rotaries of birds
Here beads traffic in rosaries
Here graves imitate trees in rows
Here is orchard
Here is fruit clung and hatched
Here is a basket
Here are hands applied over Omaha, braiding highways
Here lawns cropped in rectangles
Here tillers in bunches transit
Here an accident that didn’t make news
Here clipped migration
Here is lamp on a timer
Here letters spell electricity
Here is the room after leaving
Here is the light going off.
Brittanie Sterner is the author of the chapbook We were calling you all
night from the roof, and most recently performed her work as part of the
Philadelphia Jazz Project’s Whitman mix tapes. She directs the One Book,
One Philadelphia project at the Free Library and has a BFA from Emerson
College and an MS from Westphal College at Drexel University.
This poem previously appeared in Philadelphia Stories.