Playing Dead for the Summer: A Poem

by Octavia McBride-Ahebee

we start each morning
sitting on the perimeter of the world
sucking on peppermints of all stripes
a world
i tell them is theirs
to unwrap, behold, get lost in
like the candy navigating their mouths
i had them
ensnared and mesmerized by this narrative
of wonders lying in wait just for them
until Bashira announced
on the last day of school
with the calmness of the perpetually battered
-unaware of what blow took her down-
she had set aflame her replica of Denmark Vesey’s church
made for a 3rd grade school project
made from Michael’s discounted clay
enlivened by the history of her own saliva
she had had daymares wrapped in honeysuckle and lavender
of that little Charleston girl
with the same cornrowed pattern of hair as she
lying on Vesey’s church floor,
facedown, hoisted by her own wits
playing dead to stay alive
Bashira said she would play dead for the summer
hide in the lushness of her grandmother’s backyard
gated with bars of rotted wrought iron
and wait with the watermelons and patty pan squash, sprigs of mint
and black-eyed susans on the lookout
for this hunting season to pass

Photo: Shutterstock

Octavia McBride-Ahebee's work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Yellow Medicine, South Philly Fiction, Blackberry Magazine, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Kindling, Damazine; A Literary Journal of the Muslim World, Fingernails Across The Chalkboard: Poetry And Prose on HIV/AIDS From the Black Diaspora, Under Our Skin: Literature of Breast Cancer, Sea Breeze- A Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing, The Journal of the National Medical Association, Art in Medicine Section, International Quarterly; Faces of the Americas and the Beloit Poetry Journal. Her poetry collections include Assuming Voices and Where My Birthmark Dances.