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Maami, by Phebe Emmanuel

Updated: Aug 24

This piece is part of our “Tails + Tales” teen summer writing initiative inspired by the 2021 national summer reading theme chosen annually by the Collaborative Summer Library Program.


Sewing

Folding over a piece of cloth to hem the end and feeding it to the machine

Nimble fingers

Slight wrinkles

Rough from scrubbing dishes and fixing chairs

Scarred from the ceiling fan she touched as a child and the hot comb she uses to straighten my hair

The smell that wafts off of her is something like a mix between pork sausage and efo elegusi

The wafer-thin, polished needle making marvelous masterpieces

Like the jungle, with bullets raining down and plunging thread into woven worlds

“Why do you do this, maami? Why sew these clothes when you know you will outgrow them soon?”

She gazes at me and smiles gently

with warm eyes that don’t judge

at least not too harshly

“Why eat when you will die soon?”

I can’t make heads or tails out of the question, so I stare back at her fingers as they fold again

They move quickly, too quickly for me to understand the gestures

But I know that they make relics, not just clothes

Things that I will clutch to my chest and sob into when she is no longer able to move her fingers in this way

the thought brings tears to my eyes

So I push it away

And think instead about the gorgeous, native

Gele, iro, and buba

That will result


Phebe Emmanuel is a 13-year-old girl from Seattle, Washington. She enjoys drawing, writing, and singing, and she plays the violin as well as the piano. She has written a novel, is currently working on another, and hopes to publish them both someday. She entered the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in 7th grade and was awarded an honorable mention. The following year, she entered again and was awarded two honorable mentions, three silver keys, and one gold key. This is her debut poetry publication.


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