Skin A Cat
Wah gwan ah ere, nah gwan ah hell, ‘cause the devil will not
My mum talks about death like family
members coming to visit;
she wants the carpets cleaned and the walls
in the corridor painted before they arrive.
My father lets if Gad speer mi life stalk sentences like a shadow,
or the dot beneath the bah.
On the top of my mother’s coconut-flesh coloured wardrobe,
over the compartment with her church and wedding hats with
the lace trim
that looks like cobwebs the way that dust clings,
pushed right to the back is my mother’s hospital grip.
If you were to pull it down,
dust it off, fiddle with the rusting latches,
the top would flip back and you would see
silk pyjamas, night dresses, full slips and petticoats,
a washbag with an unused flannel and a pair of pink slippers
with a bow
look at how prepared
for death we are, how close to dying we are.
As a kid before I left the house, I was told to cream my legs
and make sure my pants were clean
in case I had to be rushed to hospital.
Years later I realised the world sees us as dirty,
and maybe my mother thought some
Vaseline, Pond’s or Palmer’s shimmering on my legs
would buy us shreds of dignity.
Make the person handling my limp body think,
She is a child worth saving, a child that is loved.
Sister Fiasah said she’d always dress her little girls with gold;
it said to the world they come from a home.
Our parents were always thinking of subtle ways to preserve
yet in the same breath preparing to die.
I bought you into this world, and I will take you out
was used to scare us kids into submission.
Rather you fear me than go outside and risk making mistakes that
end your life,
like wrong place at the wrong time, right place at the wrong time,
Being Black in your skin.
We are preparing to die,
and I’ve known this since the day I was born.
But to be murdered took me longer to understand,
murdered like Yvonne Ruddock, Sarah Reed, Shukri Abdi,
different means, same death.
Skin a Cat - from That Day She’ll Proclaim Her Chronicles (Burning Eye Books, 2021), © Muneera Pilgrim 2021, used by permission of the author.