Poems by Erika Jeffers

May 2012

The Sea En’ Got No Back Door

Instead of learning to swim, I leave his side,
just for a moment, to walk into the freedom
in the waves. I want to wash my scared away,
starting with the dirty soles of my feet, so I let
the ocean hold my body and pull me back—
I join in the laughter of her wild urgency.
When the water turns murky and deep,
silently she releases her grip. I do not fight,
I pretend I am still and dead.
Sinking, I call for Uncle, who warned me
the call to freedom isn’t worth the
trouble it may bring.


I Don’t Know the Caribbean

I only know what Granny says

and sugar cane,

though I’ve never pulled
the stalk from the root to lick raw.

I know Carnival, but I can’t wine my hips
to the steel pan beat since

I’ve never heard calypso.
I don’t know how to pick fruit

from a tree and play cricket
in the yard with produce

or drink from coconuts,
its water falling in the corner of my lips,

because I don’t know my mouth,
what to make of this flavor on my tongue,

how to speak in a voice that’s not
American, that sweet and bitter taste.


Erika Jeffers has an MFA in poetry from Queens University of Charlotte. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kweli Journal, Callaloo, and the Newtowner.