we weigh ourselves and all
               that we will carry. wonder
     what to lay down, what to keep.
             what we should bear on our
         backs, our brows, our buttocks.
       what feasts to hide in breasts or
           hollow places in our teeth. we
       throw cargo to tide to lessen our
       load. redeem the tissue, synapse,
   marrow, womb. we are all trying to
    leave our bodies behind. but they
     find shore and field: ahoy, amen,
       virgin and yielding. we tear the
        crowns off fruit and share the
      flesh — as we have seen; bleed
    oranges, milk coconuts, porridge
       island gold and hold the gaze of
   black-eyed peas. we eat the root, the
       rind, we hoard the husk. we store it in
     our thighs, our hips, the corners of our lips,
     the creases in the pits of our arms. the things
         that we have seen swell the pupils, bloat the
     blood, settle on noses, colonise cheek and jowl.
         what molecular greed, what fearful gluttony.
   what hesitant burn, what slow metabolism. we,
       the soft on which the falling land: we dream
of diets, detoxes, cells plundered – but wake
               up heavy, anchor, legion, hoard. we
          measure the past in inches – not the
    grains of rice we hid in our hair, not the
      rains through which we prayed for a
  failed harvest, not the nights when we
cut holes in bags of sugar, not the days
 when we licked sea breezes for salt. or
   how, when young but never small, we
              pinched the fat that clung to us,
            faithful through the field and mill
       and press and fire and sack and sea
          and overflowing vaults in banks as
      eager as my cells to never be empty.
     we pinched the offering ever ready to
         burn itself on our altar. we wrestled
                 with the pyre that kept us alive.

[The phrase “we are all trying to leave our bodies behind” is borrowed from Toni Morrison’s Beloved.]

Isabelle Baafi is a writer and poet. She was shortlisted for the 2019 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, was Commended in the 2020 Verve Poetry Competition, and is also a member of the London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme (2019-20). She is currently working on her debut poetry collection.   WEB   TWITTER   INSTAGRAM