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1 poem
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.

The Pilgrimage

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.

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


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