Published on Academy of American Poets (

Half Girl, Then Elegy

Having fallen while no one was looking
Having borne what fell through
Having fallen early
Having barely fallen through myself
My luck, so close to catching,
Having caught the worst of it
Having fallen from the sky, and then
Through it. Having landed to realize
I had been part
Having parted the late sky, partly
Sky where I am delicate, I took
A tumble through the night bloom
I took the night with me as I tumbled,
Delicate with the infinite,
Which swells from the tallest branch
Having grown swollen
As low-hanging fruit, I tell Nadra,
I couldn’t help it—
The fresh heave of new breast
Thick switch of hip: a group
Of unnamed gifts is called a steal
She says, fruit you can reach is still
Precious. Her name means rare: her lean
Thins towards the unusual.
In Lagos, we name our girls
Darling, Sincere, Precious, because
A name is a stake in the grave
Having grieved and taken and taken
On the way to Eros, Thanatos
Having arrived late to my own bloom:
Halve me like a walnut
Pry the part of me that is hollow
From the part that yields fruit.


Copyright © 2019 by Omotara James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“As I go along my daily business of being a woman, I continue to be surprised by how the world defines me: by what I am no longer. From a position of transitional and unfixed womanhood, I was drawn to the metaphorical conceit of a great fall. The chosen image of the sky feels more appropriate than say, a rabbit hole, because girlhood is a pilgrimage we make in the open. Maybe the poem works to challenge the concept that girlhood is finite. Maybe it can’t. The rhythm of the poem attempts to capture this slippage while turning on the homonymy of have and halve. For me, one of the surprises of this poem is the interrogation between possession of and division from the self.”
—Omotara James


Omotara James

Omotara James is the author of Daughter Tongue (Akashic Books, 2018), selected for the New Generation African Poets Box Set by the African Poetry Book Fund.

Date Published: 2019-01-23

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