Essah Cozett

Limbo

The things we
rub away
come back in
small doses
of cinnamon
and sea salt.
Cleanse your
palate, shed
skin that no
longer holds you
hostage.
And when
memories reform
in traces of
dejavú
cut open
your tastebuds.
.
.
Cover Your Eyes
What’s worse —
losing your bestie
or your granny?
One out of every
five young girls
will never know
love is getting
your hair braided.
Put your head down.
Cover your ears.
Hot-combs untangle
roots and recount
infinite designs
leading lost souls home.
Between warm legs
heavy hands prepare
Sunday dinner.
Step one: mix two cups
of sugar with one cup
of butter — stir.
When we were teens
she told me to
put my hands on my
knees like this
and pop my back.
That made the
boys pull up.
In Liberia, over 50 percent of
women suffer from FGM.
Put your head down.
Cover your eyes.
Hear the screams.
What is a friend?
An annoying person
who cares for you like
an oyster does dirt.
What is love?
The most ridiculous
feeling that God gave
us until death
do us part.
This blood is not
an offering.
This water needs
no bridge.
God knows.
This family
curse is broken
Loyalty is a rainbow
of communication
between worlds.
What’s worse —
the beginning

or the end?

.
 
.

She Who Bridges Worlds

There’s a mansion in the sky
now fit for a Queen.
The heir of Ma Zinnah Fahnbulleh
and William R. Tolbert Sr.
The market woman who
sold rice and managed
taxis, properties,
and families near
waters of Bensonville
to the grand roads of
Cape Mount County.
Classic in bearing
and demeanor
a princess of Vai whose
wisdom—endless in parables.
She is a skyscraper
her headtie splits
clouds in cursive
as she sends
universal prayers.
How many ways
can you worship God?
Stand up straight.
Get your copybook.
What educated this
country woman?
Is it the sweetness
in her cassava leaf?
Is it the passion in
her fried pepper?
Check rice and gravy
sit on her lips.
Her eyes like the ocean—
know no boundaries.
Before she sails
she will collect
libations from
loved ones.
Where the waters meet
beyond the palm trees
over the mountains
she will soar higher
than Allah.
Liberian women like her
are one of a kind.
The ones before us,
the ones after us,
she paved the way.
The untouched lands
of her soul now
live within us.
Led by the elders
rediscovered by the diaspora.
May no blood shed.
May every heart cry.
May the waters whirl
wild until there
is no distance.
Until there is no plawa.
One day there will be
no sorrowed songs.
One day there will be
praises of prosperity.
Memories of Ma Kula,
good friend to many
for me, Grandma
For you, the O’ma.
She will bridge worlds
over the waters
where the ancestors cross
in spirit in that

mansion in the sky.

.

.

Lady in the Lappa

The first thing I remember her telling me was
“You talk too fast” as we sat between four walls, two countries, an aging war, and time. Here I
am now using my second passport to finally go home and return her body in a box that will be
placed amongst her siblings. Tell me Grandma, have I slowed down my speech enough for your
broken English? Have I wandered around the world enough only to realize home is where I’ve
been running from? In Vai, her name means raw- and so she was, and so she is. Uprooted from
GrandCape Mount County to Bensonville, now Bentol, she found herself in Snellville. Every
road she travelled, she always thought she was home. “This the way to the mansion” follow the
smell of blood and spirits. Somewhere in the other world I know she is serving a big pot of
pepper soup. The fire in her heart beams through her strong cheekbone smile. Her busy hands
making market, counting money, holding on to God as she made a way out of no way. My
mother’s name means new thing as she learned from her mother, her grandmother, and the
strong ones before them. No curse will have power over her children, their children and so on.
They will learn to pray so that God will bless them like the rain does the land. This land of
liberty, love, and trouble will now find peace now that Ma Kula has returned. She will go back
to dust and there a tree will grow. Her legacy will grow. And all that will be remembered is that
Tolbert woman in the lappa with her headtie who bridged worlds.

Essah Cozett is a Doctoral Caribbean Literature and Languages student at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. She is a first-generation Liberian-American, born and raised in Georgia. Her poetry explores African identities, spiritualities, and women’s empowerment inspired by her intersectional experience in the Caribbean. Essah Cozett’s poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Tonguas, Odradek, and The Odyssey Online. She is also the Caribbean Without Borders Graduate Student Conference Co-Chair.