in the religion native to west africa’s yorùbáland, olóòkun is the owner of all oceans.
depicted with varying gender presentations both in yorùbáland and throughout the diaspora, olóòkun is also the protector of africans who were carried away during the maafa, the happening known to african-americans as the trans-atlantic slave trade.

an interview with olóòkun.

white person asks me what my pronouns are and king leopolds my body into parts.
asks me if i recognize my people’s viscera.
asks me to give these gendered phantom limbs a name that will not trip up the master’s throat.
when my tongue refuses,
answers “nigga” like upcycled oppression;
like the whip in my hand;
i remember that even the ways i can call out to this flesh map have been colonized.
that this block has been long gentrified.

white person asks me what my pronouns are and i wonder what it is to pray for the fields of these
bones without a kokou marching out of my mouth.
i wonder what it is to deny the addict both their substance and their absolution.
to say “the veins of my people carry palm wine and ocean water.”
that “this is the reason our joy lies just beneath our sorrow.”
that “this survival is a revolution and not an accident.”

white person asks me what my pronouns are and turns all the seashells into caskets.
something with a hardness that keeps their ravenous jowls from the meat.
or something to split open and empty into their pockets.
or something to quiet the ghosts of their guilt.

white person asks me what my pronouns are, so ṣàngó awakens and we evict them together.
chase them through the sugar cane and cotton prisons they thought could hold òrìṣà.
throw them out of their own front gates.
harvest the sweetness and softness they bled me for.
make an offering of my molasses skin and adorn my own altar.
eat yams until my gender is edo again;
until “they” shreds “he” and “she” into “așǫ oke.”
call the new land “nigga.”
share the crop with no one.

Mia S. Willis is a Black performance poet from Charlotte, North Carolina. Their work has been featured by or is forthcoming in homologylit, FreezeRay, Narrative Northeast, Peculiar, Slamfind, and others. Mia’s poem “hecatomb.” won the 2018 Foothill Editors’ Prize, earning nominations for the Pushcart Prize and for inclusion in Best New Poets. In 2019, Mia was named the first two-time Capturing Fire Slam Champion, a Lambda Literary Fellow in Poetry, the Young Artist Fellow at Chashama’s ChaNorth residency, a collaborator in Forward Together’s Transgender Day of Resilience Art Project, and a performing artist on RADAR Productions’ Sister Spit 2020 Tour. Their debut poetry collection, monster house., was the 2018 winner of the Cave Canem Foundation’s Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and is available with Jai-Alai Books. Connect with Mia on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (@poetinthehat).
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