Jeremy T. Karn

mother’s fatherland

history becomes a dirge
when it swells into a song that is never sung.

my mother’s tongue mourns her unknown genealogy – her father’s faint
memories of the early post-colonial days of Sierra Leone
in the late 1960s.
they bleed her mouth & leave blood stains muscling itself into a river.
i want to fish in my mother’s blood-filled mouth.

one day Yeshua will make me a fisher of men
that came before my grandfather.
i am too careful of my lineage to a country that has
shared blood & love like my fatherland.
my mother knows nothing of her fatherland other than
Sierra Leone is a hilly country & the sun comes down every evening and melts
into fireflies at night.

my grandfather never returned to Sierra Leone until his death in 2015 and
my mother knows nothing about the British colonial rule and the Kissi tribe
from Koindu that she believes her father left for Monrovia.

this morning, i looked at my mother’s mango-ripened body in her dark room.
she wants to pour water into the dried root of her body,
maybe this is how you start to germinate the roots of your father’s land.

About the Author

Jeremy T. Karn’s chapbook, Miryam Magdalit, was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New Generation African Poet (African Poetry Book Fund), 2021. His works appeared and forthcoming in Olney Magazine, Hoxie Gorge Review, Ghost Heart Literary Journal, Whale Road, IceFloe Press, Lolwe, FERAL Poetry, Kissing Dynamite, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Olongo Africa, trampset, Auto Focus Lit, Afro Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the 2020 winner of the ARTmosterrific editor choice award. He tweets @jeremy_karn96.