Omotara James
Sundays v. Bruce. Queens, NY. August, 2023.


Sunday mornings I watch people at the gas station, off the highway,

fill their cars on the way to the beach, or the game, or to whatever

wholesome activity one shepherds their upstanding family.

I wouldn’t know. The last time I went to the beach was 13 years ago.

These days, if I’m lucky, I summer with a watermelon, without the seeds I still spit. My stomach stays in knots. It’s been three days since that huge tree fell into the road. Blocking my path. This city has no urgency.

Just wrap caution tape around it. Sure,

I could have moved some branches out of that person’s driveway,

but I decided not to—I walk to get my steps, all 12,000 of them.

Every day, twice on Sundays. If I wanted to lift, I’d go to the gym.

These neon sneakers from Amazon squawk with every step I take,

like G-d damn birdcall in this plastic place, over sidewalks

then street, over twig then branch, in the rain, sun or sludge.

Over the Sunday hymnal of grass and dew. Walking past the open

doors of the new Korean church, there’s a woman in the throes of joy,

between the dentist and the insurance office. She tosses back her head, grasping the shoulder of her husband or friend. My ears don’t need to hear people laughing that freely. I look for the Bean & Bean coffee shoppe, where they roast what they sell, to take a leak. The facility is pretty clean.

The patrons, with their muffins, lattes and shots of espresso, reading

on their laptops, in singles or in pairs. I bet they hunkered down together.

The delivery guy, from the new chicken shoppe, leaves two large trays

on the concrete, dashing back to pick up something he forgot. They smell delicious. Had I my car, I might consider nabbing one or both of them.

Two women, holding hands, walk past me, in hushed voices. I wonder

if they sheltered in place together. Probably. Everyone else seems to have someone. I don’t know how they do it. Last time I had people, I was a kid.

Sundays, we’d hit the same Chinese restaurant ‘cause my dad used to be roommates with one of the waiters. Wo Hop. Somewhere in Chinatown.

I’d pretty much always get the same thing: spareribs with wonton soup— hold the wontons. Some might call me a picky eater, but I eat more vegetables now. There was this odd night I tried something new.

On my way to the bathroom I passed a jovial table, not realising I’d stopped to gawk, until they asked if I’d wanted one. I said ok. They were eating snails, in garlic sauce. You know how they eat snails? Well, there’s a little hole in the shell you have to suck on the side the snail comes out. You let go of the tiny little hole and the thing shoots straight into your mouth. That’s still one of my favourite things

about America. About New York City. Take the right train and you can step into any part of the world, maybe. The air carrying different accents, odors, languages.

The storefronts displaying unfamiliar signage and delicacies in the windows.

You can be a foreigner in your own hometown.


Found In Volume 53, No. 02
Read Issue
  • Omotara James
Omotara James
About the Author

Omotara James is the author of the poetry collection, Song of My Softening, (Alice James, 2024). Her chapbook, Daughter Tongue, was selected by African Poetry Book Fund, (Akashic Books, 2018), for the New Generation African Poets Box Set. James’ poems have been featured in NPR’s Morning Edition, the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day series and Poetry Daily. You can find her poems in print and online at Poetry Magazine, The Nation, BOMB Magazine, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, the Believer, Literary Hub, Guernica, Poetry Society of America and elsewhere.