Primordial Mother Speaks for Herself

An Earth Day poem by Zakiya Mckenzie


Forest-loving, environment-exploring nature writer Zakiya McMenzie gives Mother Earth a voice

In TOPIA series, Call of the Wild, nature talks. Can you listen?


Before the birth of civilisation
I was
Picked from the order of which
Root itself burst first
In the wet, blackout belly of blue
Deep secret sages and siren sisters
Seen only in the slumbering (submarine) visions
Of divine women who open their eyes
Not knowing they carry my blessing on their heads

When night wraps up in deep violet and delicate velvet
These siren sage women exhale 
(Children sleep)
Wanderers moving through shadow
Floating as galaxy
Everything within

When light flees into shooting star and no wish can satisfy
She is like the drinking gourd
Playing the hand of the sky
Pulling hope through hardship
Steering boat through woods of discord
The caravan’s only true guide
through astral waves and landed shore

Before the growth of modernisation
I was the mother primordial
Watched over by the old woman who
sat with daughters she did not bear
Yet poured into them
with the affinity of moss covering softness
Shaded from time

Taller branches older
For ideas, for flowers
Folded into terra firma
As a baby is swaddled
As a tonic is swallowed
For rhythms that flow through connected veins
Turning bitterwood to sweetwater
when heartblood is mixed in


Primordial mother answers to many names
Oya, daughter of chaos
thrashing as hair pulled from scalp
Howling outwards, whirling inwards
An eye full of calm
As smoke is silence and signal
in the same
She is sweet with the salt of duality
Her mercy is potion that washes the throat
Of those under her grip
She opens the gate while watching the earth rot
Ushering empty souls to overflowing plots
Standing guard at this monument to the anthropocene
Waiting to close the crypt and end the script
Of this earth exhibition

Like a fledging bird finding steadiness on wind
If it never returns, she won’t say a thing
For content is primordial mother
that in this eleventh hour
She gave
She gives
Refusal of honey for taste blunted on sour
Is outside of her power
She may wail for her creation but will preserve her essence
For primordial mother will return to elemental nothingnes


Before the birth of anything sure
My bones chalked and my flesh mangled
into dust that made me indistinguishable
From that which made the first man

Commissioned by Inside Out Dorset, made with support from Activate Performing Arts, Arts Council England, Dorset Council and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

What’s so good about this?

Primordial Mother did not need to give birth to be recognised as divine. She is a sage by her own nature and her own hard work. Motherhood does not define her wisdom. Primordial Mother eats when she wants and what she wants and doesn’t worry about her figure. She is here to love life and satiate her desires. If only more of us had the chance to indulge in the things that make us happy without judgement.

We’re here for beauty. For leisure. For nice sounds and pretty sights and conjuring wonderful smells and giving you warm and comforting feelings inside. We also have a duty to record and report the matters of the day so that tomorrow, we can learn from today’s mistakes. Art is so inviting that we can use our craft, and spaces we are in, as a call to action or a call to join a community.

Meet the writer

Zakiya McKenzie was born in South London, raised in Kingston and now lives in the southwest of England. In 2019 she was Writer in Residence for Forestry England and, at Ujima 98FM in Bristol, she was a Black and Green Ambassador. Zakiya is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter with the Caribbean Literary Heritage project, researching Black British journalism in the post–war period. Her debut pamphlet, Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Volume I, is a piece of historical fiction exploring environmental implications, published by Rough Trade Books in 2021. (Photo taken in Leigh Woods, Bristol, by Adrian Sherratt.) Follow @ZakiyaMedia.

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