Song of Myself by Sojourner Salil Ahebee

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

Before Sojourner Truth escaped enslavement she was known as Isabella Baumfree — the name given to Sojourner by her master.

SOJOURNER SALIL                                                                               
on days I need my therapist, i want you before you named yourself,
your palms the color of a raw peach, you knowing pain

in a dream i can see a photograph of me, my face black, blue-lipped,
shining like a moon, so many flowers brimming from the top of a vase
that must be abundance in the corner. 
I plant this song of myself
inside of me, inside of you

Ain't no song of myself like me in the swimming pool last summer
the water returning me to the beginning, 
my hair shrunken with the weight of so much water, 
chlorine, the neighborhood girl’s saliva.
i wonder who you’d become in water, love

my mouth is water, this body & how it came to be here —
water. how i speak a word and dutch runs off my tongue
like water, flooding every other language that may pulse
inside of me. my running be riverbed, wet with desire.

you want america to want you back & i want
a boy who don’t want me so desire is always
an american thing. I look at your photographs
your face black like my face meaning you got
a pool of what could only be moonlight
wading on your face & i want you so i want

Photo of Sojourner Salil Ahebee

Photo of Sojourner Salil Ahebee

Sojourner Salil Ahebee writes poems about African diaspora identities and the eternal question of home and belonging. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Winter Tangerine Review, and featured by The Academy of American Poets. In 2013, she served the United States as a National Student Poet, the nation's highest honor for youth poets creating original work. She was invited to the White House by former First Lady, Michelle Obama, to garner her award. In August of 2017 she released her debut poetry chapbook, Reporting from the Belly of the Night, a collection of poems that explores black femininity. You can find the chapbook and more about Sojourner.