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A'she (so be it).

A thing or work of art that has ashe transcends ordinary questions about its makeup and confinements: it is divine force incarnate! (Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit)

The Capture

She is called

Theit, The Ancient

A Keeper of Southeast Secrets

A Sangoma of Swaziland--

nesting the Underworld,

three-fifths scabbed and thick.

She knows the sound

of moaning beneath layered mud,

the rush of volcanic ebony


from warriors' caked throats,

their songs and weapons


like baobab trees kissing dust.

Theit bridged their mouths,

offering a ransomed tilt

to grasslands once rooted sleek

in cowrie shells--now fractured

in bare-assed screams


through Goree Island.

The site where strangers

called on Jesus,

but tossed him sack-wise

through the Door of No Return.

In closed captivity,

Theit begged javelins through eyes

that saw breasts branded

nipples pinched and twisted

wombs defiled

senses barricaded in rust--

Wherein standing,

souped in stocks,

she pissed white lightening on their graves,

and fainted--

a regal repose

hurtling deep through forests

where olive branches licked her whole.

With a baby's urgent hunger,

she suckled 15 million souls

from one nation

and twelve languages

and saw herself mirrored

in the watchful eyes

of men in flaming masks

women in serpentine jewels.

She danced with spirits

of the dead--who never left

the Holy Ghost.

Resuscitated, she assumed

a forward stance

embalmed and stretched in stillness

a glittering diamante

of handwoven pain--

Having danced the bingelela

having tasted tjwala beer

having pulsed between two worlds

as life ... after

life ...

afterlife ... burst

like sweat from her pores.

Her grown babies dripped

puddles at sea,

teething the bit in their mouths.

She whispered their names goodbye,

heart throbbing

like a severed limb.

Stiffened a singular way

inside a ship's cradle

their colors grow darker,

more flavorful--

a craved chocolate, melting

in recalcitrant mouths

running bittersweet

and three-fifths fluid.

With brass underpinnings,

the Door of No Return

unhinged on Theit--

and she blew

a storm to Atlantis.

Middle Passage

She is called Billow

A Daughter of Oshun

A harbinger of Africa's ethos.

With well-tooled rituals

and charms sharpened to slate,

Billow soared softness

into the choked links of chains.

In full regalia, she is liquid

with silver lightening.

For months she tongued Eastward,

an Otherworld griot stripped of words,

ululating tambourines on deck.

Howling chants from captains chambers,

she loosed a savory madness,

whipping hurricanes

to death.

Her cushioned irons became

a white, heated anger

leaping at visions

of rum-drenched boys and girls

with new teeth and little hair

cursing the texture of semen

drinking its influenzic potassium,

naked, save a grunting cover

lapping up stolen tongues.

Billow left her senses,

and lulled herself into asphyxiation,

limbs ascending en masse--

Yemonja bade her tidings.

With hair tossed

into a snow-capped wave


conquered Gibraltar

reaching back to pull

the Ibo, Ashanti, Fon, Fulani and Yoruba

from rippled depths--until

She grew heavy, spawning babies

grew wide with underground tunnels

grew tall with sidelong minions

grew aloft with branches high,

roots low.

Spreading hide for drums

spreading Mother Africa

in billionths--

sneezing wishes,

eyes closed,

soul ajar

she landed on New World shores.

The New World

She is called Barbara Gault


she is the tool on days

when we are without form or substance--

an empty gong

echoing around her shoulders.

We watch her dream our faces.

Some days, quick streaks of sun

and Miles of Coltrane

surge a purple healing

through her veins,

and we are textured

on the tips of her fingers,

our eyes pasted

to the faces of her spirits--

some spinning, some soaring,

some permanently still.

She grooves like this for days,

her being--

clouded with tears

winded with screams

silent in prayer.


she is a speechless vessel,

a staccato touch

molding shattered glass

into diamonds.

The She in Her

that is Barbara Gault

is a griot for the hereafter

whose stories live in silence,

capturing words,



the pulse,



sheathed skin,


salt water,




the wind,


all gathered,

ripened and sweet--

in her.

Sculpting what dilated pupils know:

that we are

the roar in thunder

the screech of midnight owls

the flight of condors

the hue of fire

the breath of life

the trail of incensed smoke


Lana C. Williams is co-founder of La Jan Productions, A Writers' Consortium, a non-profit literary organization dedicated to promoting African American writers, and a charter member of the Carolina African American Writers' Collective. A native of Detroit, now living in Raleigh, N.C., she has just completed her first volume of poetry, Soul to Soul: Voices in the Night of Day. Her three-part poem "A'she" is dedicated to African American sculptor Barbara Gault, two of whose works are entitled Theit and Billow.
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Author:Williams, Lana C.
Publication:African American Review
Date:Mar 22, 1997
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