When Someone Asks About Your Childhood

When someone asks about your childhood, don’t reach for those broken memories that could slice and scar your fingers. When someone asks about your childhood, don’t get serene and bring back old sceneries. When someone asks about your childhood refuse to smell the bananas in the backyard of your father’s house.

Forget why your perfume still smells like bananas. Abandon those memories, the many afternoons spent in your backyard with your best friend, Tomi pretending to be monkeys. How both of you climbed tree vines and scratched your ribs; you both couldn’t stand the fact that real monkeys were absent.

Let those memories be. Lock them away in the old albums in your kitchen cabinet and throw the keys away. Tomi is in the Diaspora now. “In the diaspora”, is not as easy as saying he’s in Ireland or in South Carolina, Tomi is in the diaspora applying for cards the color of unripe banana. Forget Tomi, you told him you loved him in high school. You’ve recall that now, don’t recall anymore. The past is a myriad of shut doors and forgotten people.

Forget your father never looked you in the eye and said he loved you. Forget that you tried to kiss those 3 syllables out of the lips of every guy in your public relations class. You tried a few girls too, tasted the ruby woo off soft lips. Forget that you’re still searching for those words from the right person.

When someone asks about your childhood, say it was fine.

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Facts and Verity

Being born Nigerian, leaves one with a myriad of skills and lessons

Every Nation and race after all has peculiar experiences,

Human environments vary like different shades of black and white

Being Nigerian thought me well, the difference between facts and verity

I had a talent, my own interpretation for figures.

Fact taught me 23% of Nigerians were living unemployed

I was 12, I heard it on the radio and percentages confused me

Papa, who understood facts, was always on the living room couch

He just sat there night and day, drenched in his own sweat

He reeked of cheap liquor and something I didn’t recognize then

Today, I realize it unemployment, Papa was a struggling man

Verity taught me shame, seeing papa weak and quiet haunted me

The couch too began to haunt me, even in my dreams

There papa is standing on the couch holding up a certificate and smiling

Exactly like his old portrait, the papa I would have loved

Verity taught me papa was different from the man smiling there

The invisible dreams present in the portrait are all dead now

All that remains are empty tales Papa tells on Sundays

He talks about long gone days, imaginary days when everything was better

Then he talked about school, so many certificates and long words

He spoke in words I did not understand

Verity taught me still about retrenchment and comforting hunger

Papa knew a lot of facts, facts he never should have bothered to learn

Facts like how many people lived on less than a dollar by day

Verity had made papa was a shadow, a fickle shell

I have never understood facts properly but they terrify me.

Journal Entry

I flipped through lasts months’ entry in my journal. The yellow unlined pages were marked with more wishes than memories. Wishing to hold you. To have you look at me with puzzled almond eyes. There were entries about desire and having you in between my thighs. On the 17th I needed you inside of me, even if it was just mindless ramming and leaving me before sunrise. It was amazing how you had put your hands on every girl but me.

Now I just want to tear out those thick yellow pages, rip them in strings like pieces of memory from a pensive. I’m ashamed of what my fingers did, how they scribbled obsessively; in the same rhythm they would want to trace every other girl’s lipstick off your lips. I’m ashamed of my obsessive creation, just like the first man created by Wak, in an Ethiopian myth my grandmother often told. Man, after seven years in the ground found a woman created from his blood. I imagined how he would bite her skin while making love to taste back a little of himself, to taste his own blood. He probably had one too many love bites and they had 30 children. Man being ashamed of having so many children hid half of them. Wak perhaps out of anger turned man’s hidden children into animals and demons. I tore out 15 pages hoping you would someday haunt me.

8 Easy Steps to Save Africa

After my university graduation two months ago, I’ve been trying to catch a glimpse of who I really am. Everyone is full of suggestions of who you are or who you could be, in the end you have to fuck everyone’s opinion and strive to become comfortable. I’ve gathered that this is what matters in the end, if you’re happy with you. I’m usually the observer kind -very noisy with friends- but would only observe in crowds. I’ve been reading a lot of literature reading lately from African and Indian literature to English Classics. Slam poetry helps me put my pieces together. Since graduation I’ve observed a lot from all sorts of people -the good, the bad and the prejudiced- also from many “pan-Africanists” and their strong opinions. From observing this is my parody from a woman’s perspective on how to save Africa:

1)      Cut all your hair off: Natural Hair is Africa’s most crucial natural resource. Many have corrupted hair with relaxers just like the oil in Niger Delta’s Rivers.  

If you are in the corrupted category, there is good news that you can start again. Your hair has been corrupted by western poisonous chemicals. The chemicals are going to attempt to straighten out your history, to make you forget the ships and the scramble for Africa. This straight hair/weave would try to make years of slavery and suppression all right. The chemicals would try to give us all the same straight flowing hair. We do not have the same history; we would never be the same. God forbid that you attribute your straightened hair to better management. “You’re a black woman, your hair defies gravity”

The first world citizens should represent everything we are against do not aspire to be like them.

2)      Aspire to be like them (first world citizens): your ultimate goal is to get a good British education. This would help you save Africa; after “your superior education” you would be able to pull them out of darkness and ignorance.

Return to African and fight for a more Africanized school curriculum.

Note: it is not in the place of first world citizens to point out this darkness and ignorance in Africa. It makes them racist (refer to Chinua Achebe’s response to Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson). Stop eating meat or only eat it in secret, you are now a vegetarian.

3)     Talk about equality: We are all equal, man is not more important than women, white is not more important than black. Children should be given rights, we should not be subject to the violence our traditions allow (i.e. No flogging your children, No kneeling to greet etc.) Despite our History or race, we are all the same (equality)

Note: this does not apply to your colleague who went to Nassarawa State University, he is not your equal; you obviously know better. He didn’t go to Wales. This is not prejudice this is fact.

4)      Keep an open mind: Support everything from traditional religion to Atheism. Condemn the rigidity of Christianity. Fight for gay rights. Criticize the Christians condemnation of traditional religion. They have been brainwashed by western religions. This is what makes you different from them you are western educated with the heart of an African. “They are brainwashed, you are civilized”, repeat this in your mind till this makes enough sense

Your open mind should however on no account cover women who fix weaves. There is no excuse for that. They have no other reason to. They are not proud of their Africaness.

Congratulate yourself on your open mindedness; condemn the rigidity of western religions.

5)      Fight for their rights (Your fellow Africans) : Know the foremost activists and their works by heart. Fight corrupt politicians from your apartment in Stratford. Be prepared to spill you blood on twitter if this would regain Africa her independence.

Fight prejudice on the account of skin color, not mental superiority. We are not unequal based on skin color. Mind inequality is real. Fight to the death to protect wooly hair.

6)     Hold a lot of opinions: Hold a lot of opinions about Africa from wherever you’re based, in another continent. Offer advice to your fellow Africans on how to change Africa. You love being African; but you would rather just not languish there permanently. There is corruption and unemployment in Africa. Write about the sufferings of African people from memories you can’t let go of. You have a job or a fellowship in Britain. Don’t worry convince yourself you have the task of changing the way the outside world sees Africa.

7)      Become superior: Read a lot of books, quote a lot of authors. Claim intellectual superiority in a basic field. Tweet how much you know about Africa and other cultures. This may not feed a hungry child but you are a well cultured African. Also go to a lot of restaurant, name wines by how dark the lightness on your tongue. Speak many foreign languages, if you can throw in your local language. You have become a well-rounded individual.

8)      Travel far and wide: visit many continents from Australia to Asia. You are now well traveled, return and talk about the various traditions you’ve seen. Compare and contrast them with you indigenous ones. At this point you may not be sure if you’re trying to preserve or demolish your own tradition, keep traveling, perhaps an epiphany would come.

Many of Africans problem are being identified by so many. There are enough analysts. Seek real change.

Songs of Sorrow By Kofi Awoonor

Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus

It has led me among the sharps of the forest

Returning is not possible

And going forward is a great difficulty

The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces

Into which I have stepped

When I clean it cannot go.

I am on the world’s extreme corner,

I am not sitting in the row with the eminent

But those who are lucky

Sit in the middle and forget.

I am on the world’s extreme corner

I can only go beyond and forget.

My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me

If I turn there the sun burns me

The firewood of this world

Is for only those who can take heart

That is why not all can gather it.

The world is not good for anybody

But you are so happy with your fate;

Alas! the travelers are back

All covered with debt.

Something has happened to me

The things so great that I cannot weep;

I have no sons to fire the gun when I die

And no daughter to wail when I close my mouth

I have wandered on the wilderness

The great wilderness men call life

The rain has beaten me,

And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives

I shall go beyond and rest.

I have no kin and no brother,

Death has made war upon our house;

And Kpeti’s great household is no more,

Only the broken fence stands;

And those who dared not look in his face

Have come out as men.

How well their pride is with them.

Let those gone before take note

They have treated their offspring badly.

What is the wailing for?

Somebody is dead. Agosu himself Alas! a snake has bitten me

My right arm is broken,

And the tree on which I lean is fallen.

Agosi if you go tell them,

Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove

That they have done us evil;

Tell them their house is falling

And the trees in the fence

Have been eaten by termites;

Ask them why they idle there

While we suffer, and eat sand.

And the crow and the vulture

Hover always above our broken fences

And strangers walk over our portion

Frangipani Death

Mother never returned from buying bread for our breakfast. She simply never returned. She told me she was going to the mall behind the park. The park five minutes away, lush with carpet grass and frangipani flowers. The park still swallows memories. Mother is now a memory, just like Sumbo. When I can fall asleep, I and Sumbo are playing in the park. I hope mother returns, Sumbo never did. Mother says Sumbo is in heaven, walking on streets paved in Gold, singing in a choir. I didn’t tell mother Sumbo hates singing; she wouldn’t sit with a choir because she loves to be stubborn. Mother wouldn’t have listened; her eyes were red, like the apples she made Sumbo eat every morning. I patted her back.

When I kept on waiting for Sumbo to return, Father told me she’s dead. I felt better, the frangipani flowers died once and they grew back. Sumbo just needed time. Father tried to explain about how she had sickle cell. Her blood cells were abnormally shaped and struggled to pass through her veins. Father went on and on. I’m not sure I understood what he said, but I believe him.  Sumbo is stubborn, she isn’t a normal child. She masterminds all the mischief and then groans in pain when we are caught. Mother never spanked her; Sumbo was as fragile as glass. I want to hate her for leaving, for leaving me alone with mother and her red apple eyes. Mother doesn’t speak of Sumbo. No one really asks about her, not even Aunty Maria who massaged her veins when she cried. Mother still remembers her though, I know because I listen through the cracks in my room door. Mother has a ritual when it’s dark, she turns off the lights and cries to God, she mentions Sumbo through sobs. I don’t think God loves mother very much. It’s been 5 months since mother has been crying to him. Father never lets me cry for too long, maybe our heavenly father is different.

The cracks in my room door know everything. They know Father didn’t want Sumbo, I heard it through whispers. Mother told Aunty Maria that father blames her. Father doesn’t want another child, he has a healthy child. I don’t feel so healthy. Mother always sobs; Father doesn’t know the pain and joy of childbearing she repeats, he wouldn’t understand. I didn’t too

Spring

 

At 19, you were obsessed with Kunle, the dark skinned boy with easy laughter. It all seemed natural to you, to want Kunle so bad. Why shouldn’t you? Laughter poured out of his mouth so easily, like the gushing water from the ikogosi spring in your hometown. His laughter was pleasantry close to home; a sort of kindness was foreign. You stole glances whenever he was close by. Would stare when you were sure he wasn’t looking. He was like your father, not exactly, in a way you couldn’t place a finger on. Kunle caught you staring once; he looked back at you and smiled.

What filled the mouth of men with easy laughter? You vowed to someday laugh long and proud like gushing water.

 

Break Forth

She rolled on the hard bed, trashing and kicking, pulling at the threadbare sheets. She was fed up with the vulgarity around her even the room gave off an aloof coldness. The blue walls mocked her with silence; she wasn’t on the right part, she would never be. Voices filled her head day and night, many silent whispers, communicating vital secrets she would never decipher. She was fast losing her sanity in this room. This room she was never to leave, she was destined for madness.

The most tormenting parts were the nightmares. Nightmares that had seeped into reality, it was the same every night. Sir would crawl under her covers and rub her thighs violently, he would fondle her breasts while she just watched him, as if seated in some theater far away, watching some newly released movie. She couldn’t understand exactly what she felt; she felt great pity for the victim in this tragedy. Not herself, she was strong.

Today the two weeks fast was fast draining her senses, she could feel herself ebbing away, trying so hard to escape back to her dark theater. She couldn’t. Today she had to be the victim, blinking back bitterness like the girl she pitied. Sir was sticking his fingers in between her thighs now, taking is fingers deeper and deeper into her. He contorted his face at the same time, he spoke in a hushed tone “sacrifices need to be made in order for you to break forth”, he pulled down his pants, now panting and sweating “break forth” he kept reporting sliding into her. The pain was deafening “Break forth” rang in her ears like the Sunday church bells. Sir screamed these same words on the altar made of gold, she always felt that it could feed Nigeria. He gesticulated up and down his familiar altar in an impressive way coining new terms and words out of thin air ”Godmosis is to diffuse and become one with God”, he proceeded to barking demands at God “Shower your children with riches”. Sir exerted so much energy, wiping his sweat and jumping.

 She could testify he was strong so she never left the room like he instructed, fearing the curse of the world, the danger that lurks at night and arrows that pierce at noonday he always spoke about. She could still hear his stern voice that Thursday night as she ran to unlock the wooden door. She dragged her frail frame dying from the two weeks fast into the cold night. She ran out not looking back, bracing herself for the arrows to pierce her sides. She was prepared to end it all.

That was before nothing happened, no thunder struck, no hurricane shook her feet “Break forth” she screamed into the night smiling.

Taiye Selasi – Ghana Must Go (Current Read Excerpt)

The washing, as by sedulous scrub nurse of all ugliness of grief’s many faces.
Faces Sai knew.
To him, who could name grief each one of her faces, the logic was familiar from a warmer third world, where the boy who tails his mother freshly bodied from labor (fruitless labor) to the edge of an ocean at dawn – who sees her place the little corpse like a less lucky Moses all wrapped up in palm frond, in froth then walk away, but who never hears her mention it, ever, not once – learns that “loss” is a notion. No more than a thought. Which one forms or doesn’t with words. Such that one cannot lose, nor ever say he has lost, what he does not permit to exist in his mind.
Even then, at twenty-four, a new father and still a child, a newly motherless child, Kweku knew that.

Disorder

At age 18, I developed an eating disorder which couldn’t be treated. It could not be treated, it just couldn’t. It wasn’t an absence of specialist or therapists. I was foolish then, I told mother. I was too young to know I was an ingrate for suggesting such a thing; they were many children hungry in the villages. What was bulimia to hungry children?

The problem was that I failed to realize that young Yoruba girls don’t live their lives shopping for dresses too small or aspiring to look like the perverted covers of fashion magazines. They grew from tiny cocoons, cooking and cleaning, keeping themselves pure for the husband they would someday mature to please. Young girls were pretty flower seeds; they had to be planted just perfectly and trimmed of all ugliness, of weeds, of those darkness only strippers and prostitutes carry so well. No. we couldn’t afford that. We would trim as aggressively as necessary, uproot bad friends, partying and most important of all “laziness”. At least that was what father said.

Girls couldn’t be lazy.  Who would feed the family and bear children? We had far more important tasks. We couldn’t afford laziness, eating disorders or perversion. “Men have choices, women have to be chosen” Mother tried to drum this into my skull. She taught me the way to a man’s heart; cooking spices and flower fragrances. “Smell good, look good, and cook well”. She taught me to kneel properly, to bow my head in the presence of elders. Mother raised a good wife.

At Age 19, I loved to watch my neighbor who returned from university, he stretched out his full torso while washing the car on bright sunny August mornings. I would escort my mother downstairs one morning. I met Tunde that day. We spoke for hours in the half washed car; we exchanged stories from universities to dodgy friends, we compared schools and teaching systems. He schooled in oxford. Tunde had grey almond eyes; I couldn’t stop staring into them. What made them so grey?  He had a lot of theories; he didn’t want to return to Nigeria after school simply. These alterations fell off his lips so easily. Who would care from his mother? He didn’t believe in religion “it divides the world” he said so easily. We sat there till late afternoon; I loved his voice, his near British accent made me dream. He told me about his favorite lecturer. I think that was what struck me, it had to be. She was Dr. Olatunji, she taught literature and wore a wooly rough afro, and she was Nigerian, married to a Spanish man. “How can a Spanish man bear Olatunji?” questions fell off my lips easily around him. “Well he is Dr. Leonard” Tunde smirked “she wouldn’t change her name, she’s a feminist.” Tunde told me stories about women who headed families, single women, and independent women. When I climbed up the stairs back home my head was spinning, trying to accept the stories of women who caused disorder. Few years later, I would call myself a feminist.

I hung out with Tunde a lot that summer. The last time, being the most memorable. That night I snuck out through the kitchen door holding black heels. I wore a large sweater over a dress so short, it would make father cringe. Tunde took me to my first night club, a bright room thrown into near darkness; it was brimming with people and booming with loud music. It was called Ecstasy. I remember Tunde laughing, he laughed loudly, the sound clashing against the beat of the music, and in that moment he seemed to be part of some unrehearsed orchestra. Tunde could make music. I moaned in soft tones in his car that same night. I told him I loved him. That was the last time we hung out. Tunde left in September, I was downstairs when his car passed by filled with black boxes and anxiety. He was going back to oxford. Tunde blew a kiss. The bastard blew a kiss. I smiled.