A LOOK

8-year old palms
Will reveal creases etched by God
And crisscrosses made by guns
And daggers and knives and machetes.

Boy with a scowl painted across his face
Dressed in negligée
Wielding a Kalashnikov half his body weight
‘Stead of a wooden slate and a piece of chalk
Or a notebook and a Bic
Dots pages of soft-sells in the big cities
Not as a kid model for some fashion outfit in Milan
But as the emblem of unsettled black nations.

A look,
At this 8-year old,
A deep one
Makes you wonder:
Which of the wee orifices on his face
Did the hideous, blood-spilling monster go in through?

(I wrote this poem in 2013. Sadly, it may still be relevant.)

AGORA

It was their second day alive, the sky was blue, the sun was golden and the day was bright, just as it was yesterday: all ten chicks were on a jolly outing with their mother. The world, it seemed, was a mega playground, a smorgasbord of puny worms and bugs, breadcrumbs and cereals, all for the taking. Eager to take over the world, to find out what juicy treasures it was still hiding, some colonial chicks slowly strayed away from mother hen, deaf to her repeated clucking that they’d better not stray too far from her. A hawk watched keenly from a roof as one chick strayed farther than the rest. Then, swoosh, the sniper struck! Mother hen shrieked, the chicks sprinted back, all but one of them.

It was their second day but it was not to be like yesterday. The sky was still blue but theirs wasn’t. They were deaf a while ago but they now they could hear. They could hear their mother cackle in anguish as they huddled behind her wings in utter silence. They could hear a generator chug loudly nearby, beside the house whose roof the hawk had stood on…

A WITCH AND A BOY

The boy died.

I think he would have lived, though. If their perfumes had not snuffed out the only, albeit slim, chance he had left.

Six days they had been in church, praying and doing God knows what else. They most definitely were cleaning poop and vomitus anyway because that’s what they said he had been doing – pooing and vomiting – nonstop besides running a fever all the while. By day 4, the boy could hardly sit up straight let alone stand. And by then, he had stopped pooing loose stool, it was all just clear fluid. They said he was an olomi and whoever is an olomi in these parts they don’t give too much water to drink. It’s said that the more water they drink, the more they shrink until they shrivel up and die. So, they didn’t give him water to drink, even when he was strong enough to cry out for water.

Day 6, he could hardly respond to anyone calling out his name. His mother called him, shook him, tugged on his arms but all he did was roll his eyes. That was when they stopped swiveling to the entrancing drum beats that accompanied their melodramatic prayers. With her heart palpitating and eyes freely tearing, his mother heaved him onto her shoulder and walked out of the church. The incense kept burning right where they left it.

There was just a nurse at the nearest basic health center, there was no doctor. The child was to be referred to the general hospital which was kilometers away. The nurse knew he’d die before getting there. She knew she could give him a chance by giving intravenous normal saline. She was going to site an IV line when she suddenly began to have difficulty breathing. She was asthmatic. The dense smell of incense on them had exacerbated her asthma. The incense was bent on doing its job apparently – why burn for 6 days without snuffing out a witch?

The nurse needed her inhaler. The child needed an IV line. The inhaler was now more important than the line. While she sought that, the child gave his last few gasps.

They found a witch but lost the boy.

THE THING

Now and then there’s that thing that chooses to not tell you straight up not to write.

It does instead ask you what makes you think you’re qualified to write.

It asks you why you think what you’ve written will be good enough to make the reader not feel like they’ve wasted a few precious minutes reading your dour sentences.

There’s something fastidious about this thing as it takes away your power to oppose it in an ever politically correct manner: it stops just short of screaming at you: quit it, loser, you’re no good at this! It’s as if it’s wary of crossing a certain boundary beyond which its actions would be perceived as unlawful.

Its mission is obvious – to stop you from writing – but to achieve that, it administers a thousand cuts instead of a single executioner’s blow.

Wouldn’t it be easier and less agonizing on you if that thing just plainly tells you not to write because you’re not good enough rather than ask a range of poisoning questions?

I Dream of a Boy

The Happy Place

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I dream of a boy
A frail boy
With limbs like a bird’s
A boy to snap in two

I dream of a boy
Head looking like a teacup
See my boy has but one ear
The other, I talked off

I dream of a boy
Palms rough as a metal sponge
Scrubbing away at burnt pots
With me, for me

I dream of a boy
That’s all edges and no curves
Breakable and not bendable
Breaking only for me

I dream of a boy
His soul buried up up in my attic
His body, sleeping in my bed
His mind, wandering somewhere in Yaba

I dream of a boy
With one million teeth
Fighting to fit in his mouth
His mouth constantly open from the struggle

I dream of a boy
Whose sense of beauty
Starts with my face
And ends with my feet

I dream of a boy

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I Write In Order to Feel Whole

Something to Move You...

As a child, I lived mostly in my head. I was lonely and had no voice in my own home so, as a result, I made a world for myself in my mind. When that world got too tiresome or boring, I would spice it up with the people and places that I read of in books. I wanted to be extroverted, to be gregarious, to be liked by everyone. This didn’t always happen. My peers often thought that I was too weird, too smart, too quiet. Sometimes, they mistook my near-debilitating shyness for aloofness and snobbery. But when it did happen, when I was part of a clique of those shiny, happy people, even when I was the center of attention, I would inevitably feel like a fraud. I’d spend hours, sometimes days, wondering if my friends would like me so much if and when they discovered that I…

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