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I count her years
In the length of her dreads
Each dirt bound lock
Telling the stories
Of all the lives she’s lived
The lips she’s kissed
The friends she’s lost
And the heartbreak she’s become so accustomed to
Each strand of undergrowth feels like a flaw
And on lazy days she lets them all fill up the gaps in her head
And smiles proudly when she runs her fingers through them
She wants you to know she’s human
And don’t all human beings have a bit of undergrowth
Hidden somewhere in a mass of wool, like knotted thread,
Under their bedsheets and clogged in brushes and drains, tucked away so neatly.
Every inch of each lock is a song
She’s still writing,
A melody she’s still crafting and it’s such a haunting sight to hear her sing
Her eyes say that time has been cold
And the harmattan more forgiving than those she’s known
So her lips and voice crack underneath the shea butter when her saliva begins to sting
And there’s no one else to offer her some more.
She sits in silence and lets her musk brew and now she smells like the aftertaste of tears and lime
Yet her beauty is rife in her dreads
Because when she speaks
Her mind is the wind
The willow and the neem
She’s the healer with each chant
Patching up herself first, so selfishly then restoring the broken soil like The Mother
And with each closed wound her crowning glory grows, sprouting from her spine like the weeds that bless pavements
Her locks are much longer than I remember
And her gaze more alive than all the deleted photos from our youth
When her dreads were shorter
And life, easier
And inspite of time past apart, I can still feel her heart in the tips of each lock
More powerfully now than when they were mere buds
For she’s now Woman
And the insides of her thigh bear the required scars and dents
And her cheekbones rise to the occasion of joy and light-heartedness
And her sides split so elegantly to reveal curves that hold up her beads when she dances to the moon
To pray for the harvest and give thanks for the grass. She smokes to the stars and inhales life and being anew.
She wears her broken heart as an anklet of peace and carries her lonesome days as a talisman
And just like the scattering roots that soon become her
She wears them all so beautifully.
By James Selasi Quarshie
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