by Breanna Burke
Breanna Burke is a passionate young writer from Kingston, Jamaica. Her work is inspired by Jamaican culture, personal relationships, and the dynamic that exists between the two. She is inspired by poets such as Sonia Sanchez and Ocean Vuong and is currently working on a chapbook focusing on the profound nature of womanhood and the experiences that have shaped the women in her own family, which will be published later this year.
It was a Sunday when my father left us.
I remember because grandma’s pot roast breathed life into
the neighborhood, my mother wept in utter perfection
grieving the loss of herself.
Today, I am declared woman by auntie who
whispers in my ear that I can finally get another piercing
and I laugh as if the rising burn feminine in name isn’t enough.
I am speaking of everyday occurrences. Mama’s hand trembles but
only under the sun. And I—her fragile, fragmented memory of God—
wonder if we ever really had a chance to be holy.
A boy takes my hand and I can tell by the way that he looks at my palm. He knows
that I am sunken water—a myriad of bloody, unhealed wounds. To build a life with me
is to drench the scars of my mother in salt before bed every night.
The day after Sabbath, Pastor preaches a special message for the girls. I cover my head in flaming red cloth, limp legs hidden beneath mama’s old skirt. I vow to write
an ode to the Sisters whose shame was an act of self-preservation.
On Sunday, a girl walks past what is left of her shadow. Darkness covered in
black. Ain’t it a shame? I imagine what her face looked like before it
metamorphosed into seething chagrin. Tears fading into the dust like magic.
They told us we were angels beneath the reeking filth. Nothing
is a woman without that scent, you know. I prayed that I would be
clean. clean. clean.
How sad it must be to be
woman breathing in memory.
The little boy chastises me, feet dangling
in the pew.
I am walking to sacred rhythms, I tell him.
Of nomadic Magdalenes who touched God
before they saw him. walking.
Of girls dreaming myths under high tides