The Incense of J’Adore. A Poem for Mother’s Day by the Sierra Lorean-American Poet Yalie Kamara

The Sierra-Leonean-American poet Yalie Kamara. Photo credit: From her website.



“I’ll be loving you until the day that you are me and I am you.”
—  Stevie Wonder

	I know that homesickness is born from distance
	and that distance cures home sickness.

	And that rage is a big calcified hut of a heart
	with one door, two rooms and a half-opened

        window. And that you both sleep on
        its floor when words are two mouths
        full of broken teeth. And that this is a lineage thing.
        From mother to daughter. I know you will awaken

        for two reasons: the whistle pitch of a ready kettle
        on the stove or the fragrance of braided flowers swaying

        at the lip of the open window. Today in Indianna,
        I felt heat rising from my pulse points.

        I spritzed both of your birthday present perfumes
        onto my body as if they would never run out.

        Lovely. I rurubbed them into my wrists unrtil my bracelets
        clanged like laughter. J’adore.

        Until I was joyful and almost bare boned. 
        Until I saw the human smoke of my good work.

        Until my arms were incense. Until your gifts lifted
        from my skin and glided on winter air, returning to you.

        Until you dreamt, until you couldn’t. And you both
        arrive in the kitchen and drink hot water. 

        And talk about the familiar scent of kin set aflame.

Yalie Kamara from A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF MY NAME in the New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tano), edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Albani, Akashic books, 2008

Every year for the past five years Akashic Books of Brooklyn, New York, has published a chapbook set of African poets edited by the black American poets Kwame Dawes and Chris Albani. As artistic artifacts these boxed-sets are a joy to touch and look at. What enjoyment to dump the contents (up to as many as eleven chapbooks in a box) and feast on the colourful and stand-out covers. What is inside is equally arresting. And in June the sixth box set in the series will be released.

A few weeks ago I clambered my way into 2018 box set and came across the one by Yalie Kamara, a Sierra-Leonean-American poet born and raised in the U.S. And I read this in the preface by Phillippa Ya: Kamara’s voice emenates from these pages, recalling the oral origins of poetry; an affirmation of community; a sound that crumbles defenses and rationality; sure as a drum, as an instrument; from the opening poem until the last line dies into the silence that birthed it. This is life, given a proper and delicious weight.

There is a sonorous wisdom buried far down in Kamara’s poems. And a knowing older than she is. Thurible, the title of her poem above means incense burner. And her poem, her words are an incense that wraps her and her mother into one. And in the poem the “you” sometimes her mother, sometimes her narrator, seems to blend into one being. One body burning: the familiar scent of kin set aflame.

So much to enjoy in this poem. Its craft. Its music. The joy that arises not at first out of joy but out of a place where words are two mouths/full of broken teeth. And that this is a lineage thing./From mother to daughter. How this makes the joy that comes later feel more memorable, more true. This love letter to a mother from a her daughter!


  1. Posted May 13, 2019 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous poem. Thanks for the introduction to tYalie Kamara. Will read more.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted May 16, 2019 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Dear Diane Thank you so much. All best, Richard

  3. Yalie Kamara
    Posted May 16, 2019 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Dearest Richard,

    I hope this message finds you well! I just came across your kind words about my poem—thank you for featuring it on your website. I’m humbled by your generosity of spirit! Looking forward to learning more about your work as well!

    Kindest Regards,
    Yalie Kamara

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted May 16, 2019 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear Yalie My pleasure to feature your wonderful poem. So glad you found the post. All best Richard

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