Free

Poetry by Grace Louise Wood

Free

(In loving memory of George Floyd)

Red grinning mouths
said we were free,
through gleaming teeth
set in polished skulls;
though we still felt the bite
of dogs, chains, nooses
kneecaps on necks,
devouring our air
before we could breathe.

Free shouldn’t feel like
an eraser has rubbed you
from solid to invisible,
leaving your soul threadbare
from too much kneeling,
praying to be heard,
begging to be seen,
voice squeezed of juice,
into husks dropped in dirt,
ground down by boots.

Free shouldn’t feel like
printed images of
brothers, uncles, lovers
in black and white
beside words of pity or fear,
framed as victims or criminals,
rather than men who
cook like their mother,
cradle hearts in their palms,
cover wounds with balm
emitting from their own life lines,
like nectar from flower stems.

Free shouldn’t feel like
sisters, aunts, lovers,
dismembered into round asses,
round lips, round breasts
batty wine, twerk, grin’,
to delight wet grinning mouths
who want rhythm but no blues
and certainly don’t want
glowing round minds.

Free should feel like
laughter ricocheting off trees
in forests singing with cicadas /
clutching dreadlocks moist
from a sudden storm,
come to drench not shower /
lapping sweat sweet like rain water
from glistening brown arms /
shouting joy into thick black
midnight air /
bathing in the moon’s beam,
water silvering silhouettes
like snail trails left behind /
breathing with every blip, blip, blip,
slipping gently down waxen leaves
to land safely in red soil.

 

Don’t Underestimate Me

(An ode to Boti Falls)

They give the smaller waterfall
a female name,
of course.
Though both were discovered
the same Friday,
flowing side by side
over the same slimy rock face.
She silently cascades her icy droplets
into a 12-foot sunken pool,
too deadly to swim near,
though invisible from the surface.

They give the bigger waterfall
a male name,
of course.
He thunders down loud and riotous,
swallowing and shouting out
all the sounds he can,
in one endless rush,
splashing and spraying scattergun
into the shallows,
leaving no space for her
waiting roar to burst forth.

They marvel at the scorpion’s
big, hard, black tail,
swelling in the sun,
rearing slowly to penetrate;
while the ants, smaller,
just as black,
teeth sharp as nails,
gather millions in the shadows,
rise as one throbbing mass,
form fearsome shapes together,
and descend to sever joints.

They ignore the brown lizards,
blending with rocks and mud;
eyes caught instead
by orange and white ones,
drawn to their gaudy performance,
like rats to the Pied Piper.
They cannot help but look,
at the frantic show,
even though rustling leaves
on the edge of hearing,
promise to unearth buried secrets.

They say when a woman plays
a harmonica on a dark farm,
pythons slither out to listen,
mesmerised from hiding
by her honey sweet music,
vibrating lips, rocking hips.
If she were to glance and see,
they would turn, slink away,
scared of their desire
to be more like her – big,
beneath their scaly, thin skin.

 

Light

(To Mankwadze, and Apam)

Near the bleached slave fort,
the ocean daybreak light courses in
like silver gold lava, so bright it could burn the sight
of anyone who looked too directly –
a watery solar eclipse,
throwing shine to narrow shadows,
and prove it could do what the moon did to conquer the darkness.
Waves overlap in tattered ruffles of cream chiffon, tulle, lace,
like millions of brides discarded their wedding dresses
to try to swim to shore on the back of
piped white icing, sugar mice, silken trains,
falling over eachother to get to safety;
melting before they could reach.
Women walk along the glinting beach,
balancing baskets, bundles of branches on their heads
as if they were crowns –
not shale, shell, bits of crab to be made into concrete
for guest houses and holiday homes.
Their gold earrings twinkle in the sun, as they laugh into phones
full of husbands who call them queens.
I wonder if their foremothers,
walking the same gilded path in the ocean daybreak light,
knew about the other women, in the fort,
on the horizon, in the dark, all those years ago?
That the frilly waves caressed rooves of graveyards
(there would be no weddings);
and the boats
weren’t just
carrying
fish?

Bio

Grace Louise Wood is a British-Jamaican poet, artist, educator and traveller.
She has been living and working in Ghana since 2018, running education programmes for the UK Government,
and writing poetry in her free time. She is an alumni of Barbican Young Poets, and performed at their poetry showcase in 2013. Her poems have been published in ‘Human Parts’ on Medium, and Drama Queens Ghana
COV-19 Zine 2020. She performs her poems at events in Accra.

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About Tampered Press

Tampered press started out as a conversation on creating more platform and visibility for writers and visual artists in Ghana and Africa. While blackness has become more noticeable now than in the past, and more space is gradually being created at the table 

black as an identity is heavily nuanced and has to be dissected and carefully documented. African artists in particular have fewer platforms. Our experiences, mannerisms and culture often have similarities, but our style, design, creation and content are different.