top of page

I see myself in you and other poems

I See myself in you


I want to let you run through bougainvillea

And chirp to the song of crickets

To climb the guava tree and curl your toes

Into dusty red earth as soldier ants convoy past

And butterflies dart in the heady humid air

Of spectacular yellow Coctu, purple Hibiscus and cooking-pot stew

But my stomach balks at the taste of mendacity

And the disquieting dismemberment of you.

Drained like my mother’s claypot I was dry of blood.

Discovered in the River Thames

As bobbing sodden tore

Bereft of bearings or bushes,

They called me Afro-Caribbean:

I could have been.

We share a limbo dance and more.

They later thought seven half-candles and a sheet to the waves

Tied me to the crude blue ilk of Adekoye Adeoye

But it did not

For he, the honourable Fola, was found drumming

Rhapsodic reprieve from the twin tower eclipse

Of shock and awe. My fate,

Until they found me ten days later,

Was a lonely grave by the south-bank

Of Tower Bridge and Globe Theatre.

No mother of comfort to weep my departure,

No heat reflected off cracked asphalt or

Burnt amber roads to warm my watery tomb,

No fresh sticky scent of squeezed ripe mango or

The pound, pound, pound of fufu to

Entice and guide me on my way.

Not even two minutes of silence.

What kind of Mami Wata was called upon by

My guardians, murdering cohort of three,

To spin me up and down

Through sewage-ridden waves

The colour of fireless coal

In the deep deep sleep of night?

How could She name me Ikpomwosa?

What lies! What irony! Ogun I swear My spirit will haunt her.

And you, Bawa Juju I watched your face.

Trusting I drank of the cup and ate of the bread.

With the curiosity of an innocent child peering into

The narrow neck of a large earthenware pot

I stared into the pit of your eyes without knowing

Their dark hollow expanse would soon be pouring

With the sweat of sawing exertion. I did not know

My frothing, gulping scream would not echo.

Could not echo. Could not even sound.

Poisoned and paralyzed my terror

Stood blank in the light of an impotent moon,

The tongues that bubbled incantations

And shadows that danced among the splashes of potent

Ogogoro, scented oils, sea-shells and breath-blown chalk dust,

Corn, candlesticks and fleeing bright Bright powders.

The baffled and inquisitive settled for Adam:

And perhaps I am a beginning without end.

My beckoning trunks of orange

The slight codpiece of dignity

Sewn with wool for what it's worth

It needles back without point from a bed

Of shopping trolleys, urban waste and

Garbage ridden-silt to a branch of my

Trafficked existence in Hamburg.

The riddled colon of plant extract,

Toxic calabar bean and clay with

Flecks of pure pure gold testify to

My origins in Edo State.

I was a small child, a boy of five,

Maybe six years old.

Bawa Juju you accused me of witchcraft,

Fatal punishment for a word I did not even understand.

I should feel pity for your worthless soul,

Instead I rage.

You stole from me.

Forest elephant, pale-fronted Negro finch,

Hyena, Bush baby, Yellow-Throated Cuckoo, cuckoo

And red river hog drowned in your insatiable greed

Or were they eaten by the fishermen who

Did not care for my dreams of Eba and Egusi

Soup Boiled yam and Ogbono,

And my grandmother’s Oghwo Ovwri:

For there is no smoked fish

In the River Thames

Only leaves of bitter tricks.

But limbo is not forever.

I am Ahigbe. I am Olokun.

I, Bawa Juju, will find you.

We were born on a Sunday

1. [SALTPOND, GHANA: 1681]

My name is Eresi Mebrabrabio

I’m tall like palm wine tree

My husband calls me Odo

Yes, Odo, for he loves me like the smooth

Arabi coffee I warm for him at break of day

But few know me.

I am Mami Wata.

I hide my wares in Egyaa number two

And sell them in Kormantse,

I come home with beads.

2. [JOS, NIGERIA: 1979]

Sister Esi Panyin,

she is a marvel to behold:

Hair like crown of Frangipani tree, body

Tall like Araba, skin smooth like

Clay, Rayfield laterite; and eyes,

Eyes wide like Bush-Baby.

Many fear the lash of her tongue,

Bulala tongue that fells Baobab tree

Faster than a Kwado-frog catches flies.

But her smile, when it comes, is the cool, cool of

Rain after a season of punishing dry

3. [LONDON, ENGLAND: 2013]

Eresi, I wanted to have your name

But mother said no.

I wanted to bear your tribal mark

But mother said no.

Sister Panyin did not care.

She drank Our loss and she laughed:

“Let’s go to the Niger

Bend and bury bare feet in the dust!”

My name is Esi Kakraba and

That is how it was.

While the Fire in Kitty Rages

Early morning grey

A parakeet calls its tropical song,

A London bus thunders over cracked

Asphalt and sends shivers down the spine

Of a house

While the fire in Kitty rages.

A tired road separates

Fat Boy in boxers

From the licks of yellow that laugh at

Black night and set five wooden homes


He holds his hose flaccid:

Its mouth facing hard ground,



A young woman hugs harried

Belongings, her wet tears dry

Stains on burnt wooden bones

Collapsing. In the warm, under

Velvet red blanket

Sipping hot coffee from a mug

Tight curls twist into helpless plaits,

Nausea seeps through my body.

How to comprehend the incongruent

Comfort of a cat curled by waking feet,

The folded lip of a long list of shopping

When a parakeet calls its tropical song

While the fire in Kitty rages

Akawini Nights

(For Rod Westmaas)

On those nights when the moon reveals

nothing but a thin crocked smile and my eyes

(open or closed) see nothing but a sea of

blackness, the cool sheets of my bed tip

me gently into the cooling black waters

of the Akawini creek and as I float downward

little friendly fish nip at my skin.

And wata getting cold like crab dog’s nose.

“Wata wata yuh guh yuh wata here.”

“Berbice?” “West Coas’, West Coas’!” “Come buy

yuh no scale fish, here. One fuh hundred dolla.”

The ungodly darkness delights.

Wata running over my naked skin

an’ I sinkin’ deeper. Legs

entangle with slippery reeds and lotus flower.

Wata Mamma asks:

“Is wha’ yuh doin’? Come

Le’ me comb yuh hair.”

A black beetle crashes into the side of my face.

Jolts me awake.

My body,

drenched by the (s)welter of the night,

an’ I itchin’ bad.

Mr Loverman tightens his grasp.

His long arms protective.

Nothing disturbs his sleep.

I sigh. He snores.


Juanita Cox completed her PhD thesis, Edgar Mittelholzer (1909-1965) and the Shaping of his Novels, at the University of Birmingham in 2013. She presented a keynote paper, Corentyne Thunder: A Quiet Revolution, at the XXVIII Annual West Indian Literature Conference in 2009, and an Edgar Mittelholzer Memorial Lecture in 2014: Edgar Austin Mittelholzer’s Creative Genes(is) and the Geni(us) Behind It. She is editor of Creole Chips and Other Writings (2018) and has published various articles including: ‘Music and Symbolism in Edgar Mittelholzer’s The Life and Death of Sylvia’ (Guyana Arts Journal, 2009) and introductions to republished editions of Mittelholzer’s Corentyne Thunder (2009) and The Life and Death of Sylvia (2010). Forthcoming publications include In the Eye of the Storm: Edgar Mittelholzer – Critical Perspectives, and a critical biography of Mittelholzer’s life. She is, with Rod Westmaas, co-founder and producer of Guyana SPEAKS (UK): a monthly forum, which offers distinguished speakers and performers an opportunity to share their knowledge and passion of all things Guyanese.

Featured Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
Search By Tags
Recent Posts
bottom of page