Today on Earth Eats, Poet Yalie Kamara reads “Eating Malombo Fruit in Freetown, 1989” from her chapbook When the Living Sing, out of Ledge Mule Press, 2017.
Yalie Kamara is a first generation Sierra Leonean-American and native of Oakland, California. She was selected by Woke Africa’s Choice for 21 Best African Writers for the New Generation, she was a finalist for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, 2017, and one of 10 nominees for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry, 2017. Yalie’s work has appeared in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Entropy Mag and Amazon Day One. Her second chapbook A Brief Biography of My Name was released in 2018 as part of New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Box Set: Tano, Akashic Books /African Poetry Book Fund. Yalie Kamara was interviewed by Dave Torneo for WFIU’s Profiles, and appeared on The Poet’s Weave. Kamara completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Indiana University in May, 2018 and will begin a doctorate program in the fall at The University of Cinncinati.
Eating Malombo Fruit In Freetown, 1989
In Sierra Leone, the saba senegalensis is called the malombo fruit.
My Uncle Sonny cupped the malombo fruit in his palms. Between his ebony hands, it looked like a tired orange that had rolled on the dirt road for one thousand years. He must have noticed me trying to peel the fruit, which is the first mistake anyone makes when they have never eaten it before. He squeezed it until a little bit of it shot out of itself, like a pulpy lava bullet onto my grandmother’s floor. I loosened a slippery knot of its tangy flesh and placed it in my mouth.
Sweet and sour, it slid across my tongue like a marble in a pinball machine. Malombo fruit tasted like the flavor before English, before any new language pressed its weight onto my tongue and made an accent of my body. A stranger to fruit with pits, that which I could not chew, I pushed to the back of my throat.
The pit swam leisurely in my throat like a tourist. My uncle laughed at my silent mouth and bulging eyes–he told me not to worry. Told me that before I had the chance to die or become a giant malombo fruit pit it would pass through me.
On an early morning phone call from Oakland, my sister still says that this is her story, that her throat was where the pit lodged itself, and that Uncle Sonny had not laughed and Grandmother’s floor was the dirt outside. That it never happened to me, though I know it so well, the breathlessness of a thing being wedged in a place it does not belong. We cannot agree: the moment must be hers or mine. When we ask our mother who this keepsake belonged to, she split the ghost fruit between us.
We tussle over a pit. We’d both rather choke than have no story at all.