Omotara James writes and lives in New York City. Her poetry chapbook, Daughter Tongue, was selected by African Poetry Book Fund in collaboration with Akashic Books for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Her work has appeared in The Recluse, Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue and elsewhere. She is a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow and has been awarded scholarships by the Home School and Cave Canem. Her awards include the Nancy P. Schnader Academy of American Poets Award. Currently, she is guest editing over at Luna Luna magazine and is an MFA candidate at NYU. Learn more at omotarajames.com
Citizenship Monolith/ Third Culture Kid
Black Americans say I don’t look African.
East Indians don’t care I’m West Indian.
The Nigerians call me the American.
The British don’t detect an accent.
The Christians can’t agree if I should take Eucharist.
The Muslims prohibit the use of said Muslim.
I say nothing.
Just keep passing.
A Mother Can See More Sitting Down Than a Child Standing Up
My mother looks at me as I am no witness to myself
the summer before college, eighteen, when she states
in the mirror, that no man will ever love me
at this weight. The tears I don’t cry
(then) mean I am not too weak
to receive such honesty.
Maybe she is more
right than we
When I return after
years away, after months
of silence, Mom barely looks at me.
When I tell her I was raped, she can barely
whisper it was a good thing she didn’t raise me in Nigeria.
I look to her. Want to douse her in my tear-shaped arms, fat, like
a heavy blanket: the weighted kind they make special, for folks who have trouble
looking you in the eye. Or being touched. But I don’t. Touch. Or ask her to explain.
let me eat joloff from the pot & waddle by the river
come with me.