Wearing a Body
In inheriting clothes from my mother,
I have begun to wear her body;
In wearing her body,
I have begun to unravel parts of me that
carry questions I cannot form on my tongue.
What is broken may be lost.
& what is lost may never be found.
We lay side by side on a worn couch
& breathe each other into life.
Here, an old oil lamp and its orange glow in which
we open each other’s breasts to search
for answers whose questions we do not know.
Of amniotic fluids sipped in the
warm roundness of soft bellies;
Of a war born in a dream;
Of a body holding a war
in unknown places.
In unraveling parts of me that
carry questions I cannot form on my tongue,
I have begun to search
for meaning in broken things.
Here, a fire, a name, musty clothes, and a cauldron;
What gives you life can also give you pain.
You can wear a dead mother and still not have a name.
A body can be broken and still not hold the answers.
On the worn couch,
we sit, two bodies masticated into a nameless pulp
& seep into musty clothes.
What is a body if the war it holds does not give it a name?
-the act or process of removing water from something
born of the ocean, I am the ocean
/a boundless drop/
wet, wet, wet, wet, wet like an ocean
& do you know what happens when an ocean becomes dehydrated?
she, sandy, sifts through your fingers
dry, barren, used, empty, broken, broken, broken, salty sand
salty like tears, like sweat, like wet, like-
Things swim inside me.
When does this happen?
At school, home, bus, market, camp, street corner, club-
The question was “when”, not “where”.
There is no when!
How do you feel when they swim inside you?
de hydrated dehyd rated de hyd rated dehydra ted
Let’s take that again. How do you feel when they swim inside you?
I don’t kn- like an ocean.
I am an ocean- dehydrated, so
I bleed tears and drink it up, overflowing to my banks.
I bloat, ocean enough for things to swim in.
The first time we kissed
I sucked in my belly and tried to relax in his arms.
His breath had the faint tinge of the wine we’d had earlier,
when he held my hand over jollof rice and asked
“so what do you like?”
Family. Books. Business.
I said. In that order,
because he had to know I was serious about marriage.
My heart was in my mouth, and I wondered if he would taste it before the
teeth sinking in the pink flesh, blood dribbling down his chin.
Before every date, I squeeze and tug and fit myself into a vintage wifely portrait.
I read about wines because he loves wines.
I drink slimming tea, I wax till I’m bare, and skip breakfast and lunch so my dress fits perfectly.
You look lovely, he says.
I smile, and store these words in a perfumed bottle.
At night, I sit beside myself and the first tear drops.
Then the next, and the next.
I mourn the body I will now have to bury.
In the morning, I bring out the perfumed bottle and let the words drown the heaviness in my chest.
Bello Haneefah is a writer, poet, and Law student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Some of her works have been published by Nantygreens and Brittle Paper.