[ 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!
. . .
THE DEAR ASUGHARA SERIES: PART ONE
this is a series about Black girlhood
and madness. spiritual gifts
and monuments of the flesh
forgiveness. forgetting. and fear
of past lives. grandmothers. gods
all we are made up of
i am in it
i and me and all my parts
the girls i got inside me
they come. they come. they go
each with something sacred
to teach me
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
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,
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.