Apapa Docks

She stood there in her best blue wrapper and head-tie,
the silent Zenobia, and the sea poured out of her.
She stood there until the ship had pulled out of harbour,
out of sight. Still, she stood there, listening
to the waves against the harbour walls. She looked out
onto the Slave Coats, Bight of Benin, the Atlantic
which had brought Gregorio from Brazil, and Baba.
Forever she stood there, watched the clouds converge,
prayed that her boy Taiwo would be safe on his journey,
happy in his new home. She thought of her marriage
without love, her childhood home in Abeokuta, Kehinde
about to give birth, and Baba – who was watching her now.
And she did not feel the salt sea stream down her face,
did not feel the steady breeze blow in from parts
of the world she would never know; and when the stars
appeared in the deepening sky, she felt a tug at her arm,
it was Kehinde, come to lead her from that place
which gave life, took life, and she knew with a mother’s love
that the sea would not bring her son back.

from Lara (“The family is like water”) (Bloodaxe, 2009), © Bernardine Evaristo, 1997, 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Bernardine Evaristo in the Poetry Store

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