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Totem games

Guess who I am.
By Yvonne Seon
Spring 2009 2.15.09

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Sometimes, I glimpse my totem
Staring hard at me
From distant, darkened doorways
Or the shadow of a tree.
I peer, too, but all I see
In the pulsing dark and gloom
Are laughing eyes, drawing me
To a spot where memory
Fades into void beyond.

“Guess who I am!” Totem cries,
While shifting shape before my eyes:
Lizard? Owl? Rabbit? Snake?
Perhaps forgotten family ties
Link me to each shape it tries.
Spider? Dog? Anteater? Stork?
Through ocean mist and fog it flies
To Guinea, Ghana, Benin, Kongo—
Looking to lands beyond.

So, we play our games of “Tag,”
“Hide and Seek,” and “Peek-a-boo!”
Totem often wins the match
By running faster than I do,
Hiding longer—doding, too;
But every now and then, I start,
To see a shape or find a clue
that leads me, breathless,
Racing to light beyond.


Reprinted with permission from Totem Games: Poems in Search of African Identity, © Yvonne Seon (Bunches of Thyme, 2007). To order a copy, contact the author at P.O. Box 467, Yellow Springs OH 45387.

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