fish bone

We used to claw at our tongues to draw up streaks
of blood. I don’t know what we were

looking for all the way down there.
The throat is a place for ululating.

The hand gestures and retrieves
a curse word, overheard from the kitchen

when hot oil jumped to kiss
my mother’s skin. I have been trying to remember

how sugar candies in a pot.
How “choke” is different

from what Americans mean when
they say “It went down the wrong pipe.”

The mouth is all bluff and guess work.
I practice until someone corrects me

or sends a voice note,
breaking down the syllables.

When I was a child, a fish bone
lodged itself in my throat so deep,

my face swelled up. I wrapped a silk scarf around it,
pretended I had come from a French movie.

Some words have sat for so long
there is no use pretending.

Some words splinter the tongue.

Claudia Owusu is a Ghana girl through and through. As a writer and filmmaker, her work divulges the nuance of Black girlhood through a personal and collective lens. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Indianapolis Review, Vogue, Narrative Northwest, Akoroko, and Brittle Paper. Her films have screened internationally at Aesthetica, the New York African Film Festival, Urbanworld, and Blackstar Fest. She was shortlisted for the 2023 Bernadine Evaristo Prize in African Poetry; and she is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Nonfiction at The Ohio State University.

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