All of My Sisters are Vestal

Ona Nwankwo

"This is a call for applause,"

they said.

"You must announce yourself as a piece

of poised carrion for saints.’’

 

‘‘Peel away my tongue

and swallow me whole.

Make me your liturgy.’’

She breathes in,

hold,

then draw bridge again, draw breath.

 

He said,

"I will cast the first stone,

Since you are not worthy."

He called her

"Nwanyi."

His idol.

 

So this is what she becomes:

A living breath, burns from starlight

And a crack of water from the heavens.

 

He said

"You are the meaning of the universe.

But you belong between my teeth.

I will mould you in the shape of a goddess,

bequeath the name Queen.'’

 

She speaks countless reparations,

repetitions, echoes,

and countless of them mute,

for her sisters have cut out her tongue.

 

"The most vestal of us

Do not speak,"

said her sisters.

"You are here to fan eternal flame.

You were made to breathe creation

and breed forth gods.

You are not required to bellow fires."

 

He locks her out of her temple,

declares to her that

"You shall don the name Womb-man."

He craves

The shape of a goddess.

Still, he will not bequeath her Queen.

 

Her religion will warn her:

She is not a god.

You were not born a man,

neither are you less.

 

She says,

"Thank you," from her hearth

in the soul of the sole of his shoe.

"Borrow me a song, sisters.

I will weave it into an anthem.

Sand grains cannot turn tides.

Tell me there are no more foxholes,

But there are.

We will flee from beyond.''

 

Look, how the foxes come to spoil the vines.

In seamless symphony,

they bark,

"You cast as a goddess."

A Queen is all you shall never be.’’

 

She settled with the dust

and mouthed

"A Queen is all I can never be."

Ona Nwankwo is an aspiring writer and student from Nigeria. Her real career is reading and writing. Between doing that, she's working towards a bachelor's degree in communications. She is obsessed with poetry, women's rights, and the examination of life. This is her debut poetry publication.

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