Two Poems

Poetry / M’Bilia Meekers

Bacchae

Mamma said, SaLone nor geh lion oh. An if dem been dae dae-sef, don die lon lon tem. We’d been talking about Serra da Leoa, from the old Portuguese: lioness mountains—rising in the east as though no man could ever reach them. She told me, back then there’d be bush so thick it breathed, ush ya, kombra, and shook thunder off the leaves until the entire coastline trembled.

I don’t know much about grief. Older women in my family were born in the colony, not me, and in your country there’s no bush to hide my body. Mamma said I’m trouble like my aunt, Shirley. All rum and thunderclap. All butter pear and blood.

I think I’m special cause I know kombra is Krio for nursing mother. I wear cowrie shells and jigida and think Euripides wasn’t all talk: sometimes, women get swallowed by mud or bush or mountain, go hunting for imaginary lions like you.

I see. You think this is only allegory. You think because your countrymen don’t believe in juju that somehow nothing can touch you, dede wake, zombi.

When Shirley disappeared, it was like my grandma was trying to catch a bolt of lightning. Kombra, ush ya followed like thunder in every village she went looking for her adult daughter.

And in the bush, women were drinking palm wine. Women were smoking grass. The mountains guarded us. In the earth, there’d be diamonds, the blood of a gorgon, and soon, even you. Tell me, what you will do when the bush comes calling, and we raise our machetes, young lions?

And in This Way Everything Can Be Taken

I reached into a kiln to scoop a molten orb onto the end
of a pipe, spun sand into glass, blew air into fluid fire

and made myself the lip of a bottle, smoothed
against a charred rag. I extended the neck

so far it began to smell like saltwater. The rotation

birthed an impossible body, hardened
into transparency, and made me stretch my skin

so thin no one could see me. I called it a type of freedom.

And in this way I slip by, spiral so fast you still
stare through me—a black

tube of glass pitched from your fist, I’m gone
before you blink: a whistle, a woman

who shatters into silica, sharpens by breaking.

M’Bilia Meekers was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana with roots in Belgium and Sierra Leone. She has received fellowships from Poets & Writers, Cave Canem, and The Watering Hole. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Guernica, Tinderbox, and Poet Lore. She lives in Brooklyn and is an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University.