by Jenny Mitchell
Family gathers in these plaits,
each parting like a grave
for people forced to work
the cane, colour of my scalp,
sun beating on their crowns.
I’ll twist the strands into a rope,
de-colonising hair, a diaspora
wending back to help
the ones in chains
escape the transatlantic.
Black Rapunzel, I’ll uncoil my locks
in prison yards, urge those on SUS
or sectioned, deep ancestor
voices trapped in too-loose plaits,
to shimmy over walls,
hide beneath my headwrap,
floral length of Africa before the trade.
I’ll carry them to safety,
woven in my braids. We’ll grieve
till loss flies out, unbound at last.
Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Ware Poetry Prize, the Folklore Prize, the Segora Prize, the Aryamati Prize, the Fosseway Prize, a Bread and Roses Award and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2019. A best-selling debut collection, Her Lost Language, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales). A second collection, Map of a Plantation, published by Indigo Dreams, has been shortlisted for the Poetry Book Awards.