A Saudade Mirage

(For the 12.5 million Africans stolen)

I stand at Bathsheba where the breakers roll in

and brood over the fate of my unknown lost kin.

Harsh waves of white water bring a deluge of grief

for Black souls overboard, who never neared the reef.


There’s a feeling that often gets under my skin,

I search for the right language to express it in.

I encounter a word encapsulating my sorrow,

a Brazilian expression that I now borrow.


Untranslatable, complex, hard to define

I want to take it, shape it, and make the word mine.

Saudade, three syllables I’ll use evermore

to speak of the hollow dwelling in my core.


My kin might not have known this melancholic word,

yet saudade embodies how they earnestly yearned

to fly in trade winds across the clearest blue sky

back to their African homeland after they die.


While swashes of Atlantic waves lap at my feet,

I watch laughing gulls soaring above in the heat,

then I see crossing the ocean, like the crow flies,

twelve million or more souls as tears fall from my eyes.


Millicent Byrne

Ottawa, February 2023