And on the third day we went to Grand Etang and I
was still alive. Death digs its way into every vacation and in this homecoming
I grow larger, fall weaker. Canada, my body, a frozen lake.
This lake was poured into a volcano
stuck between dying and dead and
everyone has a different answer.
And for a brief moment I can see
what could be the entire history of me. My ancestors
bussin ah wine on the mountain peak and swimming
on the lakebed and grinding down with teeth like sugarcane splinters
the last bricks of the old church. Other strands, more mundane
are not allowed to come together
and fade without cure.
A black girl learns to worship herself very early. To not take invitations
from strangers. To tend to her own burns
and hide in the dark. After we return from Grand Etang
I realize I want to have it all.
I want to die and I want to do it
without my body having to give in to the water. Maybe all the love
I have for myself
just comes down to saying I have had a good run.
With throwing salt on all the ghosts, old and new
hands dipped in milk
trying to take a peek at your body
as if it was a thing that never belonged to you.
As if they could cut off the stem and
pretend it was never a plant
that called for sun and water and love beyond all interruptions
I feel betrayal in every plum blossom
masking itself as cherry. Bark expanding
bark not unlike the ridge
where knuckle meets finger.
There is infidelity
in my yellow nails
and in every word spit under my tongue.
I can say
I want to be alive
but that feels like a betrayal too.
It is not mandatory
to want to tie myself
down to the earth. Reunite with all my family
resting on the ocean floor. I found forgiveness
in the passing of time. In watching my nails grow.
In telling my sisters that I love them
and that I’ll see them tomorrow.
I’ve started braiding ragweed into my hair
trying to keep myself puffy and swollen
and of the earth. Otherwise
I begin to gamble
the prospects of distant worlds
of life elsewhere.
I have anthologized my death
woven it into a currency of existence. I wonder
what part of my will
will stay in the grave
and what will scratch at your face at night.
I am valuable because I am. In the lagoon
smell and green blur into one.
There are no hierarchies made of air
luck or determination. I wait for the splitting moment
for my body to expand enough
to let the night in
Faith Arkorful placed second in the 2016 Hart House Literary Contest. She has had her work published in the Hart House Review and Echolocation, and has upcoming work in Arc Poetry Magazine. She was born in Toronto, where she still resides.