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Souvenir

By Yalie Kamara



University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados


Come, do this, Ms. Margaret calls out to me. And so

I leave her air-conditioned office, then follow.

We stand here under the hot fist of this Bajan sky. Each

of our right arms is extended. She rotates

her wrist, then I swivel mine. Our bracelets clang

against the wind, against

the Shak Shak tree’s gentle drumming,

against the barren parking lot’s cratered

face upon which we plant our feet.

We begin to melt from woman to solid to liquid.


From the main office window, it must look

like we are dancing, though if our shadows

told the story, it would say that our limbs

are trying to twist the world like a wind-up

toy. She points to the first sweat beads

that congregate at the shore of my forearm

like a handful of cabochons. They burst into

prismatic rivulets. Ms. Margaret watches

my summer flesh alchemize. She is wide

grinned as I learn the secret: how in this season,

we become black opal under each other’s watchful eye.

A week later, I smuggle myself through customs.


In America, I try it again and again: the magic

trick in which I make a rainbow of my skin

every time it storms in this nation that I call home.



YALIE KAMARA is a Sierra Leonean-American writer and a native of Oakland, California. She’s the author of A Brief Biography of My Name, which was included in New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tano) and When The Living Sing. She has received fellowships from Callaloo, The National Book Critics Circle, and The Vermont Studio Center and was a finalist for the Brunel African Poetry Prize. She earned an MFA in Poetry from Indiana University, Bloomington and is currently a doctoral student in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati. For more: www.yaylala.com


Artwork by Isabella Lill