You May Know My Name

Inspired by Jonathan Anthony Burkett’s Neglected But Undefeated: The Life of A Boy Who Never Knew A Mother’s love and from an anonymous poem I saw online 

“You know my name, not my story. You’ve heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through.” 

 

You may know my name

But do you know I breathe in fumes of fear?

And that every shoe I wear is laced in insecurities

Do you know that 3am knows all my secrets?

Or that I sleep on damp pillows I wish we could share

 

You may know me

But do you know I defend chipped chinaware?

I aggressively interpret their brittleness for beauty

Because I’m afraid you will never want my pieces

 

I wish you could take some of my emptiness

This manhunt for something I can’t explain

I wish we would dig together for that person I will never be

Big Tits Grace

A.J found God after his fourth girlfriend. He found God at the end of summer, precisely the weekend before the Christian private university would resume. Finding God was more convenient at this time as summer lusts were coming to a halt. The females even put on more clothes and stopped getting on their knees asides for prayer. A.J found God at the end of summer when students automatically started reflecting on their perverse deeds as if finally awoken from a decadent dream.

They all anticipated the booming voice of the pastor’s call for repentance at the start of the school year. The pastor will come as had done in previous years, dressed in an expensive dapper suit and probably Martin Dingman shoes. (The fact that his shoes can feed the congregation is another testimony that will be shared during the preaching). The pastor at the end of the service will call for repentance, taming his large booming voice to an audible whisper in sync with the sober tune of the piano. He will wear an expression of utmost pain and call out sins in alphabetical order beckoning the children to come back to God.

“Abortion, Adultery, Alcoholism, Anger, Disobedience, Masturbation, Pornography, Promiscuity, Lust, Lying, Stealing. My child today may be your last chance” he is crying now, wiping tears with his plaid white handkerchief. “God hates all these sins, come back while you still can”

Students trickle out like water from an old tap, at first in drops, one person, four people, eight more, twenty more, half the congregation, most of which will participate in the summer sinful lusts next year and years after that. It doesn’t matter. God called them now.

That was officially when A.J caught is life vision. Rushing out with half his course mates, he already held a mapped out plan, a scroll from an angel. He had to put his past behind him. His future was now written in the stars; 10 years later he will ride in church jets and conjure new terminologies for loving God.

Godmosis: Loving the Lord so much He permeates your every thought

Titian: tithe givers who conquer the world

A.J left his girlfriend, Grace that same year. He didn’t want to think of her dark skin and darker curling hair anymore. How each part of her skin glowed different shades of dark, all alike and unalike. A year ago he was her first lover after a bottle of cheap merlot and several I-love-yous. Days later he earned backslaps and hi-5’s from mates for the tales of their intimate experiments. All the boys adored big tits Grace.

Now looking at Grace only reminded him of the O curve of her mouth when she went down on him. How she said she loved him arching her back at the same time. He had been inside most of Grace countless times, in many places, the car, his room, the college toilets. What they had can never be acceptable by God he had to tell her goodbye and pray for her. He left Grace utterly disgusted as tears rolled down her cheeks “how could she weep over his decision to turn away from their sinful lives?” A.J had his obligation to God; she might one day realize this. For now he prayed that her filthy crimson soul will someday be washed white as snow.

Today Grace with big tits was not going to get in the way of his bright future.

Seventh Death

The seventh death is often painless. I have no idea why mine hurts so much. I’ve been through this severally, the suffocating emotion like being squeezed in a box. The anger mixed with shame sprinkled with regret. I always die with the same last words “I should have known better”.

I try to remember my previous deaths in no particular order, my job, the boy with brown eyes, the baby cot with silver blankets, the man in the black caftan, father’s grey hair that wouldn’t cover his disappointed eyes.

My seventh death stared at me through teary eyes, vodka and a cocktail of pills in hand. I tried to comfort Efe, my closest friend since college. She kept gulping and swallowing hard, talking about how she had nothing. She was shivering from anger, shame, and a mixture of both. I stood there watching perplexed, almost embarrassed.

“Efe, calm down” I tried to wrap my hands her shoulder, I held her waist

“It is well” I continued, when all fails I convert back to Christianity; never mind that I advocated Buddhism several hours ago.

“Ade, you wouldn’t understand” she spat, almost venomously “life has been rough, and I cannot tell you enough what that bastard has done to me, you wouldn’t understand” she threw herself out of my grip

“I’ve lost everything” tears trickled down her cheeks falling on her deep purple lace blouse. On some other day when we’re both smiling, I plan to ask where she bought it. Now I just count tear drops trickling down

One, two, three

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean it like that, about you not understanding” Efe let me hold her.

“It’s okay” I barely whispered.

 I knew she meant to hurt me a little, to pierce my bubble of passivity on relationship matters. She said “you wouldn’t understand” only because she was hurt and I will never understand her pain. I not understanding meant I was unmarried and without a sick baby boy. I didn’t know what it meant to suckle a child in the hospital while my husband ate cherries off prostitute’s nipples. I didn’t understand the profundity of raising your own family. I will never understand why you had to forgive a husband 2 other girlfriends and a child outside marriage. I will not suggest divorce again to Efe today; it will come up 4 years later when her firstborn son dies, when I’m laying flowers on her coffin.

Efe died of a drug overdose the next day. I too died my seventh death.

A Single Story? (African Literature)

I once saw a quote (or article) about an absence of stories about certain people; about how much representation matters.it was mainly articulating the fact that not every culture was being represented in literature. It was mainly referring to Africa/Africans anyway; about the absence of stories existing about people similar to you, about how you begin to wonder if people like you exist. This matter of lack of existing African literature is fast being resolved with the many prolific writers arising from Africa (though most I’ve read is from the diaspora). They have stories about many kinds of Africans, a lot depicting social ills and also about those who perhaps walk miles to fetch water in the morning and also walk barefooted to school etc.

There are many beautiful stories from Africa and the diaspora, a lot of stories that haunt you months after (one of my favorites being Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sister’s Street) and ones that simply stun you (Ben Okri’s The Famished Road).

The stories in circulation are amazing but it makes me wonder if we are not also guilty of selling single stories. From my observation many stories revolve around similar patterns albeit in different brilliant ways, we have the batch of stories about the poverty, and violence thriving in Africa where massive wealth from corruption and devastating poverty are placed side by side, the children here have access to little or no social amenities, they watch struggling parents who have subscribed to morbid alcoholism or extremist twisted religious beliefs.  These are stories in which these children later find themselves in different continents, they leave in hope of greener pastures and later discover life doesn’t happen in black and white. They spend the rest of their lives longing for home and trying to return back to it.

I’m not criticizing existing African literature. Literature on its own is didactic in nature and should seek to expose existing ills (even ills we are not aware of). What I’m merely advocating for is a little more representation for rich, middle class, or average African children who live in Africa (or Nigeria) and deal with emotional and social issues in their environment. You will be surprised (or not) that African teenagers, young adults (children) face many problems apart from poverty and hunger, some never want for food but are still burdened by depression and social disorders. These are Africans whom I feel are also story worthy. More attention should be given to Africans who still actually reside in Africa, literature can help teach and save (I was listening to some spoken word about how stories and poetry helped teenagers stay alive). I believe this could be a worthy cause in African literature/poetry too.

Many have noticed a form of void in African literature. Many are asking for a story where their dreams do not end up abroad. I agree there is a lack of Nigerian literature set in Nigeria; however they do exist if you search well enough. Some of my favorites include:

Ben Okri – Famished road, Starbook, Dangerous Love (All books Ben Okri amaze me, insightful and intelligent)

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani – I Do Not Come To You By Chance (This book taught me so much about Nigerian cybercrime. Adaobi tells this story like an insider, with so much humor. Definitely one of my top non diaspora books)

Sefi Atta – Everything Good Will Come (Enitan left the continent for University, this is however the norm in Nigeria for families that can afford it. I found the novel extremely realistic and relevant)  

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Purple Hibiscus (My best Chimamanda book by far, took us into Kambili’s world, portraying an African child as a complex individual capable of understanding and facing the difficulties in her life.)

Lola Shoneyin – The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (Introduces us into the dysfunctional life of a Nigerian polygamous family. An Intriguing tale.)

Thank you for reading my rant/opinion about African (mainly Nigerian literature). I’m however not an expert or anything, feel free to comment with your opinions or corrections. Feel free to correct any grammatical errors; I’m still aspiring to write better.

Discipline

A long black studded belt with a golden buckle.

Tunde’s frail hands shakily made for his golden buckle. Bola couldn’t help the thin feeling of pride swimming through her chest. Tunde craved what she could give. She knew she was good. Good for pleasure, she had traded pleasure for more pleasure since 16. Jewels, shoes, even a car. Bola wasn’t a prostitute, she just never refused gifts. Father always said “you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. Everything was a gift growing up, the gift of food, of shelter and of water. Father provided each of these gifts in return for obedience. “You must obey. Obey to the punctuation mark”. “Honor thy Father so thou shall live long”.  Everything was a gift, a privilege, obedience was why you remained with food and shelter although were many children who didn’t (even male ones!)

She grew up wishing those mornings father left he wouldn’t return. Praying to God for those cars to run into ditches and explode. Father never did, and Father was a disciplinarian. Discipline was a long black studded belt with a golden buckle after 11 bottles of beer. Father was a drunken disciplinarian.

She was a woman; she existed to please and serve other men. Father never let her forget, he was greatly troubled, he had no heirs or male sons. Even his youngest girlfriend of 24 just had a pregnancy scan. A girl child, He considered begging her to abort. 7 female children, he had wronged the gods.

Tunde struggled with his long black studded belt with a golden buckle; normally she would push him backwards so he could fall on the bed. She would then unbuckle the belt with her teeth while giving him a good look of her dark full breasts at the same time. She would throw her long weave back and lean over and taking him into her mouth, forming o’s with her fingers and wrapping them around his penis. She would trace her tongue down his shaft and look him in the eye.

Not today. Today she felt faint. Faint from the black studded belt father used for discipline.

A Letter to my Dying Father (Country) on Independence Day

Hey daddy.

No.

Good morning Sir. You always taught me to be respectful. “Proper, well raised young women can be told apart by how they greet”.

Greeting is not the point of my letter. I don’t know how to start. I’ve never known with you, with your preference of respect over love. Respect means to see you as a strong man and icon rather than to understand you. I don’t understand you, I never have.  Even respect has dissolved like butter under our boiling sun. Respect has dissolved into fear. Fear for everything and everyone. The same fear that has crept into my siblings accents. Fear has made us easy to distinguish, even Audu who doesn’t come home anymore. He went to the diaspora. Today I write this letter from the crevice in the old shrine. Bombs blow up religious houses. I pray to Sango now.

I’m sorry if I don’t even know where I’m going with this letter, despite your tough love and disciplining acts, I grew up in the midst of instability. Before I was born, I dreamt of soldiers being executed on a beach. There were mothers and children of men in the crowd. No one stopped it. No one could.

 I turned out uncoordinated, like our country’s electricity supply.

Did I mention I’ve not been to school in three months? I did try to find a new job, the most viable options were, prostitution, armed robbery and drug pushing. I hope you help me choose wisely.

 In some nations I would be diagnosed for bipolar disorder. They wouldn’t know I’m just like my father, a sea of unfinished projects, a series of uncoordinated thoughts, and an incomplete crowd.

I cannot forget to tell you about the fight between Musa and Obi? They fought like mad men, drawing machetes and blood. The worst part was we who watched, Ade was on the fence. We watched because Musa and Obi are stronger than most of us. Don’t worry they are still friends. They did not die in the fight, although they were badly wounded. Not scars you can see, but those wounds that sting and ache when they try to hug each other.

I would tell you many good stories but the bad ones are easier to remember. The reason I initially decided to write to you isn’t even a good one. I was forced to pick my paper and pen after returning empty handed from the market. I could no longer bear the weight of lifting the celebration rice after what I heard being discussed. I heard you were dying. The rice seller said it with an air of certitude, it came out as truthfully as the fact that the sun was shining. Dirges and Elegies are being composed, even as I drape the halls for your birthday celebration.

I don’t know how to comfort you. Since you’re 53, I searched the top 5 diseases for people over 50 on google, they included; diabetes, stroke and cancer.

I put on imaginary stethoscopes I wouldn’t own because of the strike. We’ve got to keep on moving somehow. I diagnosed you with cancer which probably stemmed from obesity. I warned you when you continued to swell with the tears of children, swell with poverty then the scream of zealots. I warned you.

Now I google what to say to your dying father on his birthday, most answers that come back start with “I love you”

I pledge to Nigeria my country,

To be faithful, loyal and honest,

To serve Nigeria with all my strength,

To defend her unity,

And uphold her honor and glory,

So help me God.