My great-grandmother hugged herself
and rocked by the door whenever I headed out.
How many years did the sound of her muttering wash over
before I heard softly: cuídate, cuídate bien mija”?
she who wore the boast and truth of her names:
Mama, Ma Maceda, Maximina Mena—the last of these
means: the Greatest Woman of Ore or Mineral—
was never an easy woman, only thing she held
tighter than a grudge was her legacy:
Original Seeker, Dancing Dream,
Precious Gift, an Honorable Man to Die For.
Our names in translation are praise songs.
She taught us self-care is a mother holding her own
needs in rough balance with the universe in her hands.
Shalewa Mackall is an artist and educator dedicated to liberatory creative practice. A 2019 Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow, Brooklynite, Garifuna woman, Gen X-er, mid-career choreographer, mother, daughter, cancer survivor, pie maker, and Deep House head, Mackall has published in African Writer Magazine, and has work forthcoming in Peregrine Journal & Obsidian.