"Divining Poets: Clifton: A Quotable Deck from Turtle Point Press." Lucille Clifton (Author) Tracy K. Smith (Selected by) David Trinidad (Editor). Turtle Point Press. 2021.

[ This experimental essay series is a poetic response to Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, an autobiographical novel about a Nigerian girl who struggles with spiritual gifts, multiple selves, madness, and trauma that lead her into and out of self destruction. Freshwater ruptures Western notions of mental illness and honors the metaphysical realities of young women across the African diaspora. I write this series in deep gratitude to Emezi, and all those who live within them, for telling truths I’d been too afraid to name.

The Dear Asughara Series is a conversation between my interior and the interior of Ada, Freshwater’s protagonist. As a Black girl who, at times, has experienced multiple selves, I allow my messy insides to narrate a semi-fictional account that reflects my spiritual experience of journeying with this work. I center Asughara, one of Ada’s inner selves who holds anger gorgeously and dangerously, because she birthed a raging girl child inside me. ]

*If you have not read Freshwater, this series may reveal some spoilers, but it will also help you understand why the book is a must-read!


. . .




this is a series about Black girlhood

and madness. spiritual gifts

and monuments of the flesh

forgiveness. forgetting. and fear


memorializing recollections

of past lives. grandmothers. gods

inside us

all we are made up of


of course

i am in it

i and me and all my parts

the girls i got inside me


these girls

they come. they come. they go

each with something sacred

to teach me




dear asughara,

you birthed a god in me. and she did not arrive in love and soft sentences.

no, she arrived in rage. you were a mirror, a sacred mirror for her rage, &

she could not have been born without you.


i was afraid of her, and frankly, she was afraid of herself. she never even

knew that she



before her, there were many. many girls, many selves, many names. but

before her there was no place to put the rage. about the man and his

hands and his haunting. the horror of the trauma of no consent


before her, we heard the voices and the cries of the uncatered to

the ancestors. who told us in defeat – this is black girl inheritance


we heard voices and cries of black girlhoods before mines

of lineages and past lives, my mothers’ and my own. we heard the

halving of flesh, the splitting into two. then three then four then

infinities. we heard the


the division and the recounting. the tracing her steps to find her/

self. the inability to integrate, fully. the weight and the pain of

knowing too much, and being too wise too soon


but we never knew quite what to do

when the ruptures did not want to stay quiet. when the scream

could not uncoil into release. when the wounds needed to speak

but couldn’t


before her, before you,

someone in me longed for this. this permission to put rage some where

into a person inside me. there were inklings of noticing the anger beneath sadness

between the soft tooth grin of the girls. but sorrow was too scared to know her own flame.

too frail, too fragile, too weak.


and then, one day, we met you. me and my needs and

all the girls that guide me; then, on that day, we met you.

through the thin lined pages of your mother and your home

how sanctified and holy, we met you.


and with no warning, and no assistance from me,

wild child

was birthed from inside my flesh. yes,

upon the meeting of you, Asughara


you gave these girls,

these sad and sacred girls,

a home for hate and rage

space for roaring wisdoms of the ancient divine

and the danger we never got to name


you gave the gift of

glorious gore. gorgeous anger. ailment. alignment

my mess made sense, like, all of a sudden

but the madness, it made me cringe





**stay tuned for Part Two of The Dear Asughara Series**


Emezi, A. (2018). Freshwater (First hardcover edition). Groove Press.


“Divining Poets: Clifton: A Quotable Deck from Turtle Point Press.” Lucille Clifton (Author) Tracy K. Smith (Selected by) David Trinidad (Editor). Turtle Point Press. 2021.

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