Ibejiby Barbara Sabol
The Yoruba believe that the soul of a dead twin can be carved
into a wooden figure, called an ibeji, to honor her and protect
the surviving child.
I have become a strong swimmer, double-sinewed,
since washing out alone to the lip of this world.
Nearly a woman, I still tuck your ibeji, earth-walking
alternate, in my wrapper, carry you to market and mosque.
Yet you appear in every mirrored pool: my eyes, hands
afloat. At night, I dream you in water beyond
the visible edge of our shore―too far to swim back.
Sister, it would swallow me, too.
To hold us here, I consecrate your figure with oil
of the red camwood; work indigo blue into the maze
of your carved braids, for protection. Beautiful, you are
adorned with white cowry beads: good destiny.
My blue-black, slack-lunged shadow self, no longer
cradled to the bosom of night,
dwell here in this anointed child of wood. Even then,
I could not swim back for you, and live.
* * * * *
"Ibeji" was first published in The Comstock Review (Volume 30:2, Fall/Winter 2016).
Barbara Sabol's fourth poetry collection, Imagine a Town, was published in 2020 by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Her work has appeared most recently in Evening Street Review, Mezzo Cammin, Literary Accents and One Art. Barbara conducts workshops for Lit Youngstown and Lit Cleveland. Her awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Akron, OH with her husband and wonder dogs.