Mama’s quick to crack these brown, hardened backs, snappin’ ‘em
and crackin’ off the tail-ends of these tubers, checking for isolated
imperfections – and she’s quick to inspect ‘em, making mad stacks
of lonely, rejected vegetables ‘til she finds cassava flesh so white it
ignites that spark she’s searching for – to bake, to create a cake so
sweet, a pudding so plump ‘n perfect I’ll dream of it for years.
I see her now: inspired to nurture, to nourish. With a flourish,
she wields a weighty knife to slice bark-like skin from these roots,
passing a star-white tube to me. Easy nuh, she tuts. Bi careful wid eh.
I nuh want tuh see a drop of blood in dat bowl.
I gulp and know the grater takes and takes, the hour erased from
shaving snowy roots left many a minute to make an immutable
mistake. She turns to me, totally oblivious
to my sweat, my sighs, my shredded finger, the drop of red I’ve
hidden under stacks of sugar-white cassava — she smiles and
shrugs it all in.
Two hours I wait, a torrent of sweat beading down my back; it
never fades ‘til she cuts a slice and doesn’t drop dead once our
puddin’-sweet treat crosses her lips. Rasta Mama and her holy
Nazarite vow should never let blood besmirch her lips and yet,
and yet, I fed her a poisonous pie. You smiled at me then, but
I wonder if that is where it all began. I’d rather risk your demise
and disguise my mistake than quake under your ruinous roars.
Would you be quick to inspect me? Would you crack my back
back, reject your lonely flesh ‘til I impressed you with an
unachievable perfection? Did I poison you then, Mama?
Did I hex an already haunted heart?
I watch you smile,
coconut twisted ‘twixt your teeth, a smidge of red resting
near your gums.
Kiri DeLandé is a Black, queer poet from Rhode Island. When she’s not writing, she loves baking bread, brewing tea, and admiring the moon. Her most recent work has appeared in Sledgehammer Lit, Celestite Poetry, Warning Lines, and others. Find her on Twitter at @kismetmoon_.