Fall 2012: Issue 92

A. Van Jordan

                       (Ousmane Sembene, 1966)


I listened to the palavering: birds with car horns

as the sun went down. Once I began


to understand their conversations, I started my days

by eavesdropping like a citizen of privilege


and apathy. Antibes reminds me

of Dakar the way a new lover brings


to mind the mistakes I made with the one before.

As I pass other women in the marketplace,


home is soon clouded in memory

by the air of authority festering


behind sunglasses, amid cigarette smoke.

All faces look alike and no face reminds me


of anyone I knew from another life.

Yesterday, I was introduced as “our girl,”


a possessive I’ve never felt in my country.

The gift I offer now is a face behind a mask,


a mask of a face to haunt them

long after mine fades away behind it.


Dear young couple, you

who hired me to look after your young,


give up on the roman à clef in which you


imagined me as a nameless character.


Give up on subterfuge to control

the woman you imagined me to embody.


My body, lifeless, politically still,

still has a chance to rustle a few trees


inside your aristocratic heads.