Strip(p)ed – Tayoshe Aluko

Tell them

You used to weave fabrics:



Pulled golden threads through 

Ivory patterns; Tightened cotton 

Knots into thin cloths; 



Joints rolling like the song

That sat at the tip of your

Tongue; You and your boys

Singing, braiding melodies in-

To the sequin;


                         Never stopping to check

If you’d done something wrong; Your

Body knew the rhythm; Your fingers

Sang the lead.


Tell them

You were in love then;



Spoke softly, sweetly; And

Smiled brighter than a newly-

Rolled yarn;



Dimples diving deeper into her

Rounded cheeks; Her eyes

Squinting as she batted her lids; 

Melting your heart when she walked

By the shack;


                         Never walking straight to

Your seat; Only staying for a few

Seconds; Discreet, but clear.

Tell them

You were in love then;



Sold ten fabrics each market; 

Steady enough to start a house; 

And maybe take a wife; 



Heart racing at the thought of having

The woman you loved; Just as sudd-

Enly breaking as you hear the panic;

The Governor’s men had come to

Town; And 


                         Not in friendly spirits; Your 

Friend shouted from afar; “Put away

Your tools, don’t let them see the



Tell them 

How it all ended:



Set the shack on fire; And burnt 

The yarns; Took all the cloths; And

Broke the weavers’ hands;



Cheeks reddening in the sunlight; 

Imperialistic smiles plastered on 

Their faces as their leader read 

A note from Sir Richard,”


                         “Never again should I

Have to repeat this; Refrain

From your local cotton; Re-

Placements will be provided. 


Tell them

What you told her:



Had looked for the new fabric 

That you wove for her; As

A proposal gift; You were going to;



Voice shaking uncontrollably as

You showed her your broken 

Fingers; Told her about the fabric

And your proposal plans;


                         Never expecting her to ask;

How did you feel? What did it look 

Like? “It was (I am) strip(p)ed.”

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