Birth, Place

I made this land myself.
I put dirt in my own
mouth and hoped it
would mature; you made
             manure of the bodies
of our mothers, asked
us to chew the remains,
and on our tongue they
whispered, Babalú-Ayé,
make my children potters

of a planet, give them
farmers’ hands, and turn
their captors into meat
for sand
              I baked the
soil myself, let the dough
of it roll in my first language
so it would taste sweeter,
coated it in seeds of faith and made
heat of my heart enough
for home to cake around me.

Your legacy’s already drowned me,
you dragged me along water not
fit for baptism and my brothers
swam anyway; cold wind
cracked their bones outside your windows
and our daughters grinned
and took it. We asked Yemọja
what rain would work to water
a home, and she said
Whatever sea is in your mouth
will season your final island.

Know that my landlords are
greater than yours. I
made this land myself,
a recipe written in the heavens
and taste-tested by ancestors
and peppered with ashes.
Shade will one day grow
in the place where your father’s
bones once called me low.
I will plant a time I cannot see
for children I will not know
among those bones,

and what grows, laughing,
will not be as easy to pluck
as I once was.


Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien is a writer, performance poet, teaching artist, and game designer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions and the 2020 Ignyte Award for Best in Speculative Poetry, and is published in Uncanny Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Strange Horizons, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is the former Poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. His debut poetry collection, Can You Sign My Tentacle?, available from Interstellar Flight Press, is the winner of the 2022 Elgin Award.

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