PORTRAITS OF MAMA MBOGA NEXT-DOOR JUST PAST HER LATEST TEEN by Redscar McOdindo K'Oyuga


she is ruined without ether

or violet smoke, covers her skin

in jewels. she is the taj mahal,

she’s what happens to little toys

in the dark looking for their toy trucks

and invisible friends named Mogoks

or Bobo. she covers her sapphire bruises

in trench coats and tobacco, covers

her communications with purple and thyme mist.

her crystals are shattered mirrors, her face

barely forming in their cave

like facets. the cut covers her lip. you’d marvel

how she’d look without an eye,

a head. see slashes so deep and red

they hit bone complement her

complexion, her mouth, her lunar eyes.

if she were an angel her wings

would be numerous, supported in

complex architecture from cardboard

and wire hangers they are

monumental, scabrous, mounted by a series

of connections from wire to skin, the thick

of her butt. in her past life, a marine creature, mammary, her skin aquatic, drifted the ocean

floor feeling like a fossil, like the earth swallowed her and held her in its belly, a holding cell

for the afterlife. it is wondrous how her skin would look in a morgue, with her nostrils sliced open, brow bone

in shreds. you’d see it matches her betrothed’s

pearls and floral. you’d say her eyes were charred

smoke and bushfire, smoldering,

skin breaking like a shell, or tribal scarring,

ritual sacrifice, two matching bruises on her

cheeks. the folds of her wings

are scented slaughterhouses, she rides

a donkey of purple thread, its eyes are embers.

her former life, a dog, in a construct of cement and uniforms because her teeth, which must have devoured

Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga writes in Swahili and English. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in African American Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Foundry, Callaloo, Rattle, Clarion at Boston, Transition at Harvard, SAND,Mandala, One, EXPOUND, Lawino, Jalada, Saraba, Brittle Paper, Poetry Potion, various anthologies, and elsewhere. He won Writivism’s Okot p’Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation and the inaugural NALIF Prize for Poetry.”

Twitter: @RedscarMcOdindo

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