The Door of No Return

I’m wondering if the angel could have warned the slaves, the same way it warned Joseph before King Herod’s attempt to kill baby Jesus.


The March – Ouidah, Benin. 17th century


I’m sure they just walked.


Parched, paired and chained. Ankles to wrists, wrists to necks – heads and eyes to anywhere but each other. Maybe a prayer helped – but what good was God when his wind sifted through bodies bearing lashes? Maybe a song aided: a melody that couldn’t be woken out of sleep, could not be dragged, grabbing anything in sight to pull itself out of harm’s reach. A melody in which one keeps. The only thing one could keep.


Shore to Ship – Ouidah, Benin. 17th century


I’m sure that some held still for their arrival.


And while they were waiting, I read, they were advised not to turn around. No! That was not their children crying. Not their mother or father, their husband or wife. Just remnants of a home they’d known, scattered between their sandy toes; and once the ship arrived – they rubbed them together to still the fear that rose as they stepped on deck: aneephya. Making themselves stone. That was how they faced a world they had yet to encounter: by denying those captors the sight of their grief at what they left behind.


The Ocean – Ouidah, Benin. 17th century


I bet they rowed harder.


Yemoja! Were these not your children being taken? Were they not calling for you as each boil on their skin burst; could you not hear them, or the slap of their bodies thrown overboard into your womb? What song did you sing while burying their bones? Silently they longed for your calling. With the tightness of iron on their legs, they closed their eyes each night and waited, whispering, Save us –


La Porte de Non-Retour is monument in Ouidah (Benin, Nigeria) built where more than one million Africans were enslaved and deported to Europe & The Americas

Used by Permission of the Author.

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Yomi Sode is a greatly celebrated and vitally needed voice in the UK’s poetry scene. Born in Oyo State Nigeria, his entry into the ...

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