Maafa to Mami Wata

1526 – We were one. Then two. Then twenty million
trudging to coast. Bounded by ironhorse
shoes. Waiting for splintered lips.

We were seized counter clockwise.
Directed east. Cramming Savannah with chattel
and contracted weapons for new world.

We were crumbles. Bartered bodies slathered in
plague. We were choking from plague. Swallowing
traded pearls and gun powder for new world.

We were water spirits’ daughters waiting to be taken
Home. We were drowning in vomit and menstrual seeds
and traded textiles and rum for new world.

We were high-pitched screeches across ocean. Wails
penetrating sonar. Awakening snake, wool-like hair, and
gapped teeth. World of seas lured Savannah into deep.

Mami Wata receive us from maji.
Let statues from prows plunge.
Take us Home.

Back to bottle caps and brown. Warm.
Bursting of Ugali and goat. Jollof rice
and ginger. Puff Puff, meat pies, and Fufu

smashing in Mami’s burnt left hand. Back to
plucking jumbo mangos raining with spice. Back to
harmonious coil picks and mirrors. We waiting

on veil to disintegrate shackles and dust ocean’s bottom.
Fuse legs to make fin. Gallop gills across bruises.
Twist indigo and alizarin crimson to safety. We

free now. Our breasts float. We gyrate to sacrificed
skins in the name of rejoicing. We giggle
with fish now. This is best family reunion

after flotsam. After dive or flop or
bones snapping in half. We
sail underwater.

Heather ‘Byrd’ Roberts is a Chicago-based poet, performer, teaching artist, and author. Her first chapbook, Mahogany: A Love Letter To Black, was published in 2016. Byrd’s work focuses on the intersectionality between form and freedom. She uses her experiences as a black woman in a variety of spaces to shed light on issues of privilege, love, and familial relationships. Her work unlocks the opportunity for invisible voices to be heard. Byrd was a semi-finalist in the 25th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award and was part of the Poetic Forum Collective from November 2014–December 2016. She is a 2019 Swarm Artist Resident and is currently the Senior Education Programs Manager at Young Chicago Authors. Her favorite words are balloon and bubble. To learn more, visit

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Issue 7

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