Ceremony,

by Omotara James

How do I love1see: enter this body?
Cradle it in gauze, like a third-
degree burn? My mother loves2see: applies pressure to or requires my fat
to be covered, specifically
the affected areas:
arms, belly, back, and thighs.
The darker the meat, the more
vulnerable to light. Her hands,
the first to sheathe and swaddle.
Her wrists, weaving the inaugural
spells. Her fingers, holding the spoon
I open my mouth to tell the story
of wound. Poem, I am lost inside you.
How do I begin, again? Wo counsels
to imagine the portal that leads home,
what it might look like. I think: sun.
I see: shadowy basement doorframe,
mandalas of mold and the ex-lover3see: usurper of truth
who said she loved4see: by comparison how her skin looked
against mine. Who devoured my dark
fruit like a worm. Who spews my light
silk, still. Can one ever undo a spell?
Part of my father believes
I might still be a doctor, a model,
or both. His foggy eyes aglitter with
the sparkle of an infinitely crushed
mirror. You see, he fancies himself
a sculptor. Tells me my proportions
are perfect. Would love5see: imagine his triumph to see me
finally do it. Damn it. Love6see: honor myself
enough to lose—loosen what hangs
around my masterpiece. Gazing
across the whole of me, he grins,
“It is your time,” every time.

  1. see: enter
  2. see: applies pressure to or requires
  3. see: usurper of truth
  4. see: by comparison
  5. see: imagine his triumph
  6. see: honor

Omotara James is the author of the chapbook “Daughter Tongue,” selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants. A former social worker, she has been awarded fellowships from Lambda Literary and Cave Canem Foundation. She is a recipient of the 2019 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize and the winner of the 2019 Bread Loaf Katharine Bakeless Nason Award in poetry.