Yalie Saweda Kamara

*A Golden Shovel for My Friend Michael

This evening, I looked up a handful of synonyms for the word “incurable.”
What I think I may have found was either a small prayer in my thesaurus or

the rough draft of a steadfast psalm—the undoing of bad news. So 
let me tell you about the words “eternal,” and “undying.” And how they

are incandescent twins flitting through the bowels of what the diagnosis might say.
They are like the light between your teeth, Michael. Your sweet mouth, no 

different from the sun, a mango pulp pulsing softly on U Street in the summer. My regrets
for sharing a simile about the country that lives above your tongue so late. No

excuse here, other than fearing a premature praise song would be a surrender to sadness.
A decade ago you showed me an onyx tattoo scrolled on your wrist. Though I no

longer recall the phrase on your skin, you smiled and warned me to not live a nothing
life, the type in which we become too boring to dream in the color of bling and we’re

merely echoes of our own desires. Gardens afraid of water. You asked—if we’re not using all
of our fingers to cradle the blossom of this breath, then what are we really doing here?

This is a new skill for me. To find wonder and not expectation in the gift of going on and on,
but haven’t you been whispering this to me for years now, love? To massage and unearth

this stubborn thank you from my own chest? And now it is dusk and I open my shades to
a morning sky made of fig skin & fire. Can I call this magic you? Teach the universe to learn  

the melody that ripens night into daybreak? I think it already knows. I hear it in the chirp and
peck of confident creatures, greeting the new day’s fight & the chaos it promises to make.  

I think we can make shields out of almost anything. For me, they are two eyes shut so good
and tight that my daydream becomes a prayer. And no nightmare leaves bruises on impact. 

Is this the same for you? Do you hold yourself so close that you forget your armor is on?
Or do you feel my palms cradling your heart, fingers interlaced into the space of the other’s.

*Golden shovel sourced from a line of a Facebook status.

​​Yalie Saweda Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California. Selected as the 2022-2023 Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate (2-year term), Kamara is the author of A Brief Biography of My Name (African Poetry Book Fund/Alashic Books, 2018) and When the Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017) and the editor of the anthology What You Need to Know About Me: Young Writers on Their Experience of Immigration (The Hawkins Project, 2022). She earned a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Cincinnati. For more: www.yaylala.com