Palm Wine Tapper
It is no woman’s job,
though no one ever said it was.
You learn it from your father.
— One cutter per tree,
interlock yourself with the prey
by a rope, a gourd
hitched on the hips.
Opposing the caste,
he swarmed the long-necked beauty
right up to its crown,
stepping on the scars,
to pose at the peak,
where working men could see him
The incubus of a tree.
He did not fear the eyes,
nor the void life refused to fill,
but leaned against the nothingness,
trusting the rope,
the ring of union.
— Mash the bunched fruits for oil.
Knife the trunk’s neck for sap.
The palm wine tapped,
tangy and breast-milk-like.
The forest would close,
farmers crossed a neighbourhood,
hunters in packs, clowning fishermen.
The tapper crossed alone.
He sees all there is to know
A young girl watching
the men of the village,
I wanted to marry a palm tapper’s son.
From Palm Wine Tapper and the Boy at Jericho (Doire Press, 2022). "Palm Wine Tapper" was first published in Poetry Ireland Review, Issue 131, 2020.