Helen of the Nest
by Tolu Ogunlesi
Her songs float from a concrete nest,
Muffling the cries of the featherless five.
“If me giv’n one thousan’ steps of dance
To spend, I be planting one leg in Choiseul,
De other in Zanzibar, fixin’ me gaze
On Elizabeth’s Throne, I be rolling my waist
Like a coconut hiding the blue blue sea.”
Every morning she lays hope in the garden
To charge, like a solar cell. At sunset,
She returns it to a bed stacked with sorrow
Like green gold skyscrapered on a departing boat.
What Helen really wants is a new name.
To change your life, you must change
Your songs. And your surname.
“Me, I still single, I never get husband,
I still looking for the right man to come
By me. He never come.” She leaves me
Wondering where to place the five men
Who have labored cheaply between her legs.
Still, I will take her word for it,
Join my prayers with hers, that he will come
-whistling like an animal
In heat at her wide-open gates.
Joyously she will wash his clothes, and knit
Callaloo onto the hollow hem of his tongue
In return for daily honeymoons
To the Carnival,
And a father-figure for the brood.
But age will never play on her team.
The rest of her days will belong to public taps
Where gossip swells breaking news, and to cramped rooms
Where she will regurgitate food, and prayer,
And watch the fatherless five grow,
As she awaits her sure turn beneath a creole rain.