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sugar cane liberation (mandisa apena, 2016)

in my dark leather,
i wear it proud upon me.
cocoa and shea,
shimmering in a shattering glaze of sunlight.
never take my dark leather off.
though mama say i need to,
though papa say it too much,
though words start to clog the pores,
wears the hide down to rotten hues.

in my dark leather.
my eyes seek a sister that i can worship in gated palaces and technicolour boxes,
i finally find my shade in filmy dust at the bottom of the shelf,
tick “other”,
clockwork heads forget daylight saving hours and ignore the changing times.

in my dark leather.
i am told to lighten up -
lighten my attitude
lighten my skin
lighten myself
molasses running thinner and thinner,
an exponential lifetime of
refined sugar and hide.

in my dark leather.
i will chant
i will walk
all tattered and shreds,
down to the river,
blood of my ancestors,
drowning in it as they drowned when their bodies were a burden to their captors,
let them rise from the whitest sand of their amphibian cemetery,
rise to their celestrial place among the stars,
a brilliant constellation
ready to lead the reborn
into emancipation
a sugar cane liberation.