Marcela Sulak
The History of the Yam

The first yam’s like a finger, fleshy and long,
probing the heat and depth of earth, to see what crowns.
The second yam’s an umbilical cord between the sky
and the kicking curves of earth. That’s why
Yoruba smear cooked yams on rocks and knolls:
we thank the tearful skies, we thank the busty hills,
reconcile your differences, give rain that yams may grow.
Each yam has its own character and use. Laabako,
you are first: may no one eat before you,
may no one die from greed; from greed may no
one kill. If there are no baayeri in a field
the other yams will leave, but too many baayeri will lead
the other yams astray. The little kpuringa satisfies
children at play, but at the end of someone’s life
chenchito served at burials comforts the tongue
while hands pound out the absent heartbeat on a drum.