This work was featured in Issue 17:4, Fall 2016 — Slam Issue

Pages Matam

Three Poems

Volume 17:4, Fall 2016 
Slam Issue

 

spoiled child

a di na seba, l’anglais linga na titi
mwende na d’i pa m‘bol pa anglais
l’anglais n’est que ma quatrieme langue
english is only my fourth language,

it is the baby of the family
the one my mouth spoils
favorite by default
who may one day be sold off by its siblings
in hopes to never return
all of my other tongues have grown so jealous

in my country, we have over 200 dialects
that’s over 200 ways
to say love
to say family
to say I belong to something
that does not want to kill me
that does not want to siphon the gold from
my flesh or the stories from my bones

 

Maritime in Lloum

my grandmother Mami N’toung was a seashell

if you came close enough
you could hear the ocean in her chest
pending you weren’t taken by

the pressure or the drowning

the first time I met Mami N’toung,
there was so much pressure in the room
everything
began
to
sink
she didn’t speak much French or English
from what I could make of her reasons in bamiléké
it was something about: keeping the colonizer’s language
in your mouth, is like eating long expired food

still, I treaded in excitement for stories of Lloum
the cooking of the women in our tribe
wide net fishing trips to Kribi,
swallowing pebbles of the sun from the cup of the Atlantic
how everything smelled like the dialects
I never got to learn

she looked at me with foreign eyes –
I was an unrecognizable place – she searched for my mother
in my face, like a light house
that will bring her to a safe shore

when she could only find my father
she grew into tired waves full of salt;
I was a bad decision a mistake
she didn’t want to be forced to love
The son of the man who ruined her daughter’s life
How the room began to swarm with looks
like sharks that could smell the feast of
unfamiliar blood in the ocean of my family

how she quickly reverted to her shell

all I ever wanted was to be her favorite
pearl, the grandson without an expiration date
but ‘til this day when I think of Mami N’toung
all I can do is

hold my breath.

 

Ode to Anansi

kwaku

you were my first Black superhero

shaped of an eight legged promise:

little black boys

grow up to become sky gods

or infinite tales

bodies folded into a legend

as vast as the night of our skin

& the wet drops of stars

slowly unfurling

Pages Matam is an international artist and educator from Cameroon, Central Africa, currently residing in Washington D.C. He is the Director of Poetry Events for Busboys and Poets, a Callaloo Fellow, and author of The Heart of a Comet (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014), which was named the Best New Book of 2014 by Beltway Poetry Quarterly and was a Teaching for Change bestseller. A national and 2x regional poetry slam champion, he has passions in the field of education, violence and abuse trauma work, immigration reform, and youth advocacy. He has been a featured artist and performer on Upworthy, Huffington Post, Okay Africa, BET Lyric Cafe, and TV One’s Verses & Flow (Seasons 4 and 5), and at the Pentagon, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Apollo Theater, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Smithsonian African Art Festival.