The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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Return to the Bush by Radhiyah Ayobami

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return to the bush

the women in the pink kitty hats need to go get their cousins. the apocalypse now crew has been selected to the run the country and it was not done by our hands. we have carried the weight of america’s decisions on our backs & in our wombs from the moment we stepped off the boat onto this land whose only goal was to devour us & our children. we haven’t sat down since we wet-nursed george washington’s children & built the white house. we haven’t stopped walking since mama harriet’s first journey into the forest with the gun wrapped in her headtie. we marched, weary from the fields, into the mouths of dogs that tore our flesh while singing- we who believe in freedom cannot rest. our consciousness has raised this nation from childhood to a rebellious adolescent. we- the ones who were not considered people- said to america- grow up. we are human beings & we deserve to breathe- it is our birthright.

the collective trauma of this nation is the hag that rides us at night. it grows hardness in our breasts & wombs that are cut from our bodies, it steals the wisps of hair from our heads & forces us to sew on wigs in the damp heat that hide our shame, it makes our bodies swell & spread wide & we put on shapeless dresses & soft shoes & tell ourselves & others we don’t care but watch with fiery hearts as the women who are free of ghosts parade their bare legs in the sun & we wonder how it is to walk the world feeling like a precious thing.

we are forty acres & a mule tired. we know the politicians are against us & the police are against us & the schools are against us & the everyday citizens that vote for concealed carry are against us & the city & the state & the nation is against us & some of us cry & say, how? we have given our generations to america- the red clay dirt in georgia & alabama is our grandmother’s blood. how can america be against us? we are this land.

now it is time for us to retreat; to go into the bush like the maroons of carolina & louisiana & florida. it is time for us to retreat & wade in the ocean waters on gullah island, plant a chinaberry tree near zora’s grave & listen to the tale of how she traveled the world. it’s time for us to have gatherings on the full moon where we lift curses & stir up spells of protection. it’s time for us to learn how to keep a garden, can food, sew a dress & find freshwater. it’s time for us to make sweet almond oil for our hair & skin & share it with all the women in a big copper pot- it’s time for us to reclaim our bush medicine. it’s time for us to fight as hard for ourselves as we have for this nation; to turn our powers inward & do some deep bonding & healing & rocking ourselves to sleep- our rest is centuries overdue.

this new era is beyond the domain of the mind & into the domain of the spirit. we have to call on the god-self to get through; the god-self our ancestors felt as they stepped off the boat & felt death in this land & said i will survive. the god-self is greater than man or regime- it will talk to us in that carolina seawater or by zora’s chinaberry tree or on a quiet night in brooklyn while the building lights twinkle in the distance & it will tell us how to shapeshift & how to move. it is waiting to emerge right now. listen. –radhiyah ayobami


Radhiyah Ayobami is Brooklyn-born with Southern roots. She holds a B.A in Africana Studies from Brooklyn College, a MFA in Prose from Mills College, and has received awards from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Currently, she lives with her teenage son in Oakland, California, where she is at work on her first novel and the trees give her poems.

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