What We Leave Undone

— Omotara James

The year Theo divorced David, he taught himself to play guitar for survival, said, I just needed to save myself the repetition of a broken heart, which is a workshop for what might have been. My ukulele from Honolulu has yet to be tuned & I thought I’d surely learn to play a song before she took a wife. The salve of watching my mother sleep, spreads cool, like a family who knows little of violence. This, the reason I never tell her of hands, ten feet outside our gate reaching from the open doors of a Cadillac, maybe if not for those large, sunken seats or the driver’s uneven sense of time—what they could have grabbed, fistfuls of baby fat. A healing balm requires shaved beeswax placed into a pan, over low heat. I lock the silent gate on my way to school & wait carefully at the curb. When I see a dark Cadillac, pee pours warm like infused oil, into the pan, melts over the wax. If those older boys had reached me, the way my mother reached across the ocean and landed with a dream, I do not know if I would have screamed. Across the waters from Nigeria, I see the headlines of the Chibok girls who go unnamed as a conjuring. I read: Schoolgirls Abducted, then Child-brides, then On the Anniversary of… They, who were marked unlucky & then unlucky & then unlucky I want to tell them—but only, oil and beeswax. In prayer, I open my mouth to their dreams and choke on the steam. At night, I leave the salve, top open, on the nightstand, by the haunted strings for the ghosts, who exist for no reason but to finish these things.


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