BY Vanessa Onwuemezi in Features | 11 JUN 20
Featured in
Issue 211

No Missteps in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s ‘Prospect West of a Necromancer’

‘This is how you walk through water’

BY Vanessa Onwuemezi in Features | 11 JUN 20

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Prospect West of a Necromancer, 2019, oil on linen, 2 × 2.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Corvi-Mora, London

It’s you and me tonight. Young bones.
Night’s got a tight grip on my head.
Red’s got its fingers through my hair
just you and me.

Light does shine from somewhere.
Light does snake over water dark as oil,
slick as ever, stretches far as we can
see, stretches long green and purple,
and blue. On the horizon there’s a pale
tendril of rain.

Would you follow       then? Only one way
for me to move and that’s forward.
Of course you will. We one in the same.
I’m just talking to me, isn’t that right?

This is how you walk through water:
clear the ground of your wanting,
still the murmur of your hopes,
refrain from chewing the cud of
your thoughts. Water stretches far as
oil         slick, a line through the middle
of us       man       straight through my
middle. Tone on tone blended upwards
and then        round to me again         us
melting into our lungs.

Will they be talking about the moon
tonight? Absenting itself from the
furious sky, lonesome and hidden
somewhere in red orange brown. Will
they be talking about it? The moon
being your head having floated right
off your shoulders. Hold on to me.
Floating from those shoulders

edged in orange-soda glow
blue and orange
again seeps through the eye
into a memory slow to take hold,
they’ll be talking about the moon
– bull frog strung up
bloated by the air
of its desires
a cut hole or
a portal
door waxing open and closed
must be the source of the light
and follow.

We couldn’t be better dressed for the
journey. Herringbone for a hat pin,
feather-white. You haven’t mentioned
my hat. I’ll tell us about it one of these
days. You might believe that I am unfor-
giving, unmovable, stubborn but show
me a mistake, a misstep        brother.
Show me a line in my hands, a foot.
Not a hard line anywhere I am        for-
giveness. The dead forgive.

Let me show you how to walk through
water, soft feet and careful as an owl’s
wing, not pointed rough, slip        into
the water’s sleeve, look up, in your mind
hold the light, and dig, dig them
heels to the ground.

This article first appeared in frieze issue 211 with the headline ‘This Is How You Walk Through Water’.

Vanessa Onwuemezi is a poet and writer. Her short story ‘At the Heart of Things’ won the White Review Short Story Prize 2019. She lives in London, UK.