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Poet of the Week: Kwoya Fagin Maples

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“All of my children have died or wandered away.”
– Alabama Slave Narratives

Here are the milk and songs
from my breast.
Here is his cover
sewed from calico scrap and dyed
with peachtree.
Take it for nights when he is cold.
Here is the sheet I washed
in secret, to catch him
when he came. It was to give him
a clean start.
Take the old dresser drawer
I used for a cradle.

You will need pins
from the washwoman and this wrap from my hips—
You can carry him
against your back.
Take the knife
from under my bed
that they used to cut the pain.

I did not make a basket of medicine
I did not want to mark him sick,
But here is pine-top tea, and elderbrush
Here are mullen leaves for when he cuts teeth.
Here is his corn husk doll,
same as all the rest. And take
the place I prepared for him
near the fire,
the quilt folded in half then again
so he would rest
against something
soft. Take the room full
of times my hand crossed over my belly,
a prayer on my lips.

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