- When your mother returns
Every day when your mother returns from the market
It was you who welcomes her at the door
and she would have a smile for you.
It was the same smile she wore when the midwife bundled you into her arms
The place you’ll leave someday.
To a far flung place her arms
Tip to tip
bone to bone,
the length of her finest wrapper,
So she welcomes you home too, everyday, with a smile
Like you welcome rain in Mabudi*
Like every morning in Mogadishu.
Although your father forced the hymen off,
took her freely without her consent
You are a joy hate loves
Yet you came encrusted in her blood,
and are female too.
She counts each day like
Every time news comes from your village.
Her mother, old and primed
Visits each day with a gasp.
So she gasps that days become months and months
Years that she cannot camouflage as days again.
You are twenty-one now,
Her smile caresses the curves and contours of your black beaming body
The soft deepening arch of your waistline
That sets joy that love hates
The kind that masked Libya
Promising hanging gardens
wearies her, like you wear dough out.
Each night that darkness hurries you unto her bed
She drinks from your appearance
So that when your breasts began to blossom at twelve,
She was the first to notice Samir’s son’s look on them.
So she sat you down and told you everything.
She told you of pleasures in the way a woman climbs hills under a man measured to the full.
Men she says will come, women too.
“It can be very pleasurable.”
As she opens her soul,
You find you didn’t have to prod yours,
She is your mother.
She told you about the regular blood that will flow,
and fetched a mirror,
to show you between your legs.
Spread before her on the finest wrapper she owns
Gingerly and tenderly as the quiet demise of
Venezuela was: this
Kings will hoot for she says.
That is where you came out from
where the blood will come from,
“But it is so small,” your lips offered.
“You want it big?”
She laid on her back
And spread herself.
Told you to look down, between her legs.
What you saw, you would show your own daughter.
You are thirty-three now, with your first daughter,
You told her to fetch a mirror . . . .
*Mabudi is a town in Langtang south, Plateau state Nigeria. Rainfall is sparse and an open dam outside of town collects rainwater for use throughout the year.
2. The Night I was Conceived
The night I was conceived I was there
I stood atop one of the poles of my father’s four poster bed
He stood atop the woman who became my mother.
The night my mother screamed me out I was there
Although I would contest her tales of my wailing that night,
It was unmistakably me:
Soft hairs unlike a babies;
And my father, shifting from pole to pole,
Caught my eyes.
It was surreal the way we stared at each other:
An older me above,
A younger me below!
Then, it began to pour outside.
The sky begged to have a glimpse of me
It knocked on the roof like death tolls from wars,
Trashing the dark sky with its long whip.
But I was in my father’s hands already,
Big, big hands like a boulevard
As he held me,
We held gazes
He stared, down, down between my legs
Then I peed, straight as a nail
You should have seen him wear a look
That was the look I was trying to tell you about,
It was there that night I was conceived.
3. Bad Soil
Inspired by a scene from the movie Fences.
You don’t give
You fear no one will give
As much as you do.
You are a soil
A bad soil.
I took my hope,
Planted them in you
But you are a bad soil
I couldn’t burrow deep.
Each time I dip,
Each time you rip,
But I was determined to burrow,
You are fine,
But you are a bad soil.
I, I am not a farmer,
I am your lover.
I burrowed my seeds
You took my seeds,
While other soils tempt and lure.
I am your wife
waiting to bloom,
But you take
You don’t give
You are a bad black soil.