Rebel Women of Hispaniola and Beyond by Ines Rivera Prosdocimi

Makandala is a queen of Guinea, 
hot harmattan turned monsoon
turned little swift to wriggle out
of iron. Greatest Grandma ruled
the air,  blew the bowels of a ship, 
tossed  the Atlantic to settle
in Cuban sea cliffs. Some said her body
belonged to a Spanish admiral, but
I know she tucked her soul into a secret
unruly part, that when he looked
with lust, she wrapped the wind,
and became of the sky.

Makandala is a Cuban queen, 
trade wind clenching the memory
of Cape Coast Castle, 
Antillean Palm-swift with a wing
of clipped feathers to tether her
to a bitter bud that would never be
sweet flower. But I know Grandma
tucked her soul into a secret
unruly part, that when he looked
with lust, she stole onto a Spanish ship. 
Heavy was the gold at her waist, the land
where the cane was orange and bled men. 

Makandala is a Dominican queen, 
sweet gust of aguacero turned tropical
hurricane, turned Hispaniolan Emerald
to stir grandmothers in the purple hue
of her viridian feathers, to lead God
into Trujillo City, where men hung
from street lights. But I know Auntie
tucked her soul into a secret
unruly part, that when he looked at her
like land, she poured faith and rum
in saints, saints who blessed her voice
with the slow tempo of Cuban boleros.

Makandala is an Argentine queen, 
pampera who set out like a man, 
turned teacher to teach me how to lean
on the Ketupi’s flight, how to whistle
milongas up and down the great Ocean
Sea. You tucked your soul into a secret
unruly part when he held up
your heart, how you remained in a land
far away from silver mountains to fill me
full of maroon women  and their majesty. 
Mama, in every generation one of us
inherits Greatest Grandma’s unruly hair, 
but all of us are born rebellious.

Contributor Notes

Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi’s poetry collection, Love Letter to an Afterlife, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2018. Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cold Mountain Review, Kweli, Nimrod, Poet Lore,  and Witness. She is completing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland. She teaches at the University of Hartford.