8. Michelle Tiwo

Maybe I’ll Be The First


In the car, shreds of 8am light pool in,

the half-moons under her eyes.

She told me she’s been searching all her life –

her spine now a heavy root from years of reaching

and stretching and slipping between rock and struggle.

She is a small tree, in a big storm

refusing to be displaced.

Yet every so often

anger strips her tongue

into a lashing whip,

burns hot coals in the pit

of her stomach, blows black smoke

through her heart.

In her village, she watched many close to her fall. She told me

there were murmurs of dreamers hearing an oasis calling,

whispering honey as they slept and schemed,

letting the sweetness drip in deep waves. She said

she wants to know just once, if it is as warm as the dreamers say.


For my mother, I am trying to learn what freedom looks like

in this body of mine. What it tastes like in this mouth or feels like running

through the thick of my hair and the small of my hands. I am trying

to grasp freedom with my teeth, the tips of my toes. Trying to catch it

on my eyelash, for her.

She does not know freedom,

has never known freedom,

but I’ve seen it

looking good, sauntering elsewhere.

I want it.

The choice to go

where I choose when I am ready.