Omotara James

Omotara James is the author of the chapbook, “Daughter Tongue,” selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants. Her poetry has appeared in the Academy of American Poets, Literary Hub, Platypus Press, The Lambda Literary Spotlight, Poetry Society of America, Nat.Brut, Winter Tangerine and elsewhere. A former social worker in the field of Harm Reduction, she has been awarded fellowships from Lambda Literary and Cave Canem Foundation.

Self Portrait as a Queer Block Party

Your fat spills soft across the moonlit crown of grass. Your soulmates are a gaggle of fish, shoaling thick, until you are schooled enough in this love. The hours left before sunrise are shimmering scales, marked for the net, long-cast // before you learned time had an end // Bodies so true, joy pools behind the ears & around the clavicles like jewels. Like fucking jewels. Pores chant in the street: we are alive. Speakers blast the humid sky like firecrackers in June. You take the first hand, then hip, with you through the dance, glide, until you find the body you abandoned // measurements ago // You travel it with your partner. Their unshaved armpits, bleached seaweed green. Their bare midriff, a silk thicket. Their saffron robe, a protection, against the binary of day or night. An inch of belly leaps beyond your shirt, like a flying fish

in silver light.

Haircut

When I tell my mother I am in love with a woman. She looks up from the frying pan and I look down as she asks me what it is that we do. She means sexually. She wants details. I think it’s time to invest in coconuts. Never learned to stomach the smell of my mother’s palm oil inside her American kitchen. Announcing itself in hot splatters across the clean lines of the cold porcelain. I still lay my temple across a cool surface, splay my troubles atop a tiled floor. Limbs like I’m seven again, naked from the waist, beneath my mother’s steady hand and long silver scissors. Which always feel like surprise ice against my chubby pubis. Eyes pinned East beneath her impatient voice. I said don’t move. My girlhood, open as the morning blinds, the light I wish was brighter. When Mama’s finished cutting, she dusts the loose hairs like a janitor, underpaid. Sighs. Now I’m allowed to be a girl again. Pull up my shorts to play. Outside the air tastes like honeysuckle and I am on the cusp of forgetting. Until she calls me home. I pretend not to hear her questions. She wants to know where I am going.

Mirror Talk
(for M.P.)

the woman who faked cancer
was the first

to reap the secrets

of your body

her knowing hands

firmly turned your flesh

into an orchard

every way one can lie

in beauty and truth

she studied, or stole

‘til the soil dried yellow &

the stems hollowed

this season’s empty harvest

moon: the single plate

before you left her

you forgave

her hollering fat fuck

the night she left you

in the car to swallow pills

your bottom barely fit

into the chair beside her hospital bed

she never said sorry

or meant it

when she cried all the fruit dried

& the days got shorter

& you got fatter

with brokenness

fatter with predators

your thighs

expanding into the night