Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


We Drink at the Attenuation Well

Motivated forgetting is a psychological defense mechanism whereby people cope with threatening and unwanted memories by suppressing them from consciousness.
            —Amy N. Dalton and Li Huang

              in Badagry there is a hung-
              ry well of water and memory

 

                                                         loss. in Badagry there was a well 
                                                         of people lost across a haven 

 

of water. in Badagry there was
a port overwhelmed in un-return. 

 

                                    to omit within the mind is to ebb
                                    heavenward. memory is a wealth 

 

                                                      choking the brain in un-respons-
                                                      ibility. violence in the mind and 

 

                                    the mind forgets in order to remember
                                    the self before the violence begot. 

 

in Badagry trauma washes ungod-
ly memory heavenward. in Bad-

 

                                       agry there is an attenuation well 
                                       meant to wish away a passage, 

 

                                                                      meant to unhaven a people.
                                                                      violence is underwhelming

 

                                         in return. what the body eats, 
                                         the mind waters. responsible 

 

is the memory for un-remittal. 
royal is the body for return. god is

 

                                     the mind for wafting. forgetting 
                                     is a port homeward. in Bad- 

 

                                                   agry hungry memory grows angry.
                                                   in Badagry the memories un- 

 

                 choke. trauma un-eats the royal. 
                 in Badagry there is a heaven 

 

                                               of people responsible for the birth- 
                                               right of remembering, for the well 

 

                                      of us across a haven of water
                                      overwhelmed in un-return.

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Porsha Olayiwola. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“The poem explores an ‘attenuation well’ along the route walked by Africans leaving a slave port in Badagry, a coastal town in Nigeria. It is said European slavers hired local root doctors and conjured women to ‘fix the well’ by which enslaved Africans would drink and forget their way home. The poem seeks to provide refuge via motivated forgetting and questions whether this forgetting is purely violent or a possible attempt in preserving the psyche of the Black Diaspora against the trauma of the Middle Passage.”
—Porsha Olayiwola

Author


Porsha Olayiwola

Porsha Olayiwola is the author of the collection i shimmer sometimes, too (Button Poetry, 2019). An Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization, Olayiwola is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston. 

Date Published: 2020-06-17

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/we-drink-attenuation-well