The Hangman’s Dream 1

 

 

 

I was looking for the best spot to hang myself when Alex called. She wanted to know if I could manage working as a driver with a local government chairman. I almost laughed. I would have grabbed any job: feeding pigs, washing corpses, packing shit, anything. Seven long, hard unemployed years had robbed me of all the pride, choice and hope I ever had. All I wanted was to end it; purge the world of my parasitic self, make myself more useful as fly food and manure. Then Alex called.

The interview was the next day and I didn’t have anything to wear. All my clothes were at least eight years old and most looked eighteen. The interview was meant to be just a formality but I couldn’t go looking like a loser. Alex had worked that out. She brought me a new jacket and a pair of black jeans.

“Hon Sam can be picky, so you want to put your best foot forward. Smile when you talk. Try to maintain eye contact. And for grief’s sake stop grinding your teeth!” She said rolling her eyes. I blinked away tears and tried to swallow the pebble in my throat. I was still looking for the words to thank her when she drove away.

The jacket fit perfectly but the jeans were loose at the waist. A sad smile flitted across my face; she was shopping for the old me. The one that played football, weighed 90kg and dreamt of owning a hotel chain not the underweight shell I had become. I looked into the mirror and a wave of panic hit me. What if Hon. Sam didn’t like me? What if he changed his mind? What if this was just another can of dashed hope? My blood froze at the thought. I couldn’t –wouldn’t imagine what that would be like. Before I left the house, I put the rope in my pocket and switched off my phone. If this was another of Fate’s twisted jokes, I didn’t want to be unprepared.

I left my house three hours to the interview but with unexpected traffic and a sudden rainstorm I found myself racing against time. To make it to Hon Sam’s house, I ran the last hundred meters under a relentless drizzle. His compound was massive, the size of three football fields. Its ten feet high, barb wire capped concrete walls loomed ahead of me. A kennel of dogs barked as I approached and a stone faced policeman looked me over before letting me in. I clenched my teeth to stop myself from shivering and tried to relax. I was cold, wet and scared.
A smiling young man led me to an outdoor bar to wait. We passed rows of cars in black covers. Part of me wondered which one I would drive, a Lexus? A Mercedes? A Porsche? The other part snickered: get the job first. Dreamer.

The young man gave me a seat at the bar and asked me what I wanted to drink. I wanted black tea, in a giant mug, served hot with plenty of sugar and cream but I smiled and said I was fine, while I struggled not to grind my teeth.

Proposal By Proxy

Kasara didn’t feel betrothed. It was like a film, something happening to someone else while she watched and laughed. Her mother was showing her new wrappers to a crowd of cooing friends while her father was puffing on his pipe. Her fiance was an enlarged photograph showing a rotund man with small wrinkled eyes.

It was settled, she would go to Lisbon to join him next week. Some of her classmats came to say goodbye, but they didn’t stay long. Kasara wanted to cling to them, to shout and scream and make a big scene, but she sat still instead and received their cold congratulations with a frozen smile.

News came. He couldn’t receive her immeadiately, a minor matter no doubt. She had to stay with her parents a little longer. Kasara didn’t mind. It was still hard for her to see herself married to the man in the picture.

News came again. A change of plans, he no longer wished to marry her. Would she mind marrying his cousin instead? Of course they could keep the bridal gifts. No one mentioned that his cousin was fatter and older than he was, or that he already had two wives and eight children.

Her brothers were incensed. They smashed the framed potrait and wanted to burn the wedding gifts. A family meeting was called and the elders tried to talk sense into them.

Kasara raided her mothers box and found enough money to travel south. She ran away to her Aunt Jemima’s place. Years passed but no one else asked her to marry them. And when she closed her eyes she could still see the round face in the enlarged photogragh and its small, wrinked eyes.

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Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

CUT! Changing The Stories That Limit You.

Stories can build us. Stories can also break us. No stories are as strong as the ones we tell ourselves. Coming in second are the ones we heard from our guardians growing up: a mother who said you’ll never cook well, a teacher who said you were dumb, a father who just didn’t care….

I have found that we can change the stories we tell ourselves. We can arise like the mythical lion and tell the story of how the hunter wet his pants the first time he heard us roar. We can reclaim the narratives and tell stories that build us up and challenge us to be better and do better.

One of the stories that limited me growing up was the family tale of my carelessness. My mother said it, my father said it. Everyone believed it. Truth be told, I did misplace my fair share of items, but that was something I did, not who I was.

I began to take better care of my things as I grew up but the story wouldn’t change. It got to the point where each time I asked for anything, my Mom or Dad would say, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I would take the said item and guard it with my life. But alas, the story would come to pass and soon the item would vanish into thin air. This kept happening, then one day I had enough.

I asked for a ring boiler and my Mom said the usual words, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I replied,”No Mom, I won’t loose it. I will take good care of it and use it for as long as I want to.”

I had that ring boiler for six years.
.

.

Another story that tied me in knots as a writer was the story of rejection. Every one gets rejected, the story said. You will have to get used to getting rejected over and over again. Hey, look, Marlon James, the Man Booker 2015 Prize Winner, his first novel got rejected 78 times, by 78 publishers before it finally got a home.
So-and-So (insert name of big shot) got rejected 66 times.

The more I listened to the rejection story, the more my belly turned to stone. The thing is, I can’t stand rejection. It is bad enough that writing doesn’t pay much and is so darned hard to do, but the least I want at the end of the day is a little applause.

I want a clap on the back and a handshake. I can stomach some nicely worded affirmation padded constructive critique, but to think of someone thrashing my hard work is unthinkable.

So for months, I didn’t submit anything. I self published on my blog. I got pieces accepted through recommendations. I stayed away from the rejection story and it stayed way from me.

Until I realized it wasn’t helping my writing.

Like it or not, writing is a highly subjective business. If you don’t “put your self out there,” you’ll miss many opportunities to be seen. You have to risk the fire to get the gold.

But how do you do that without being rejected?

You change the story. This is the story I tell myself now:

Rejection in writing doesn’t exist.

Simple.

There could be a match, meaning, well written story meets right publisher/audience at right time. Or a non-match, meaning either the story isn’t well written or the audience/publisher is wrong or the timing is wrong or all three.

Writing a good story is my duty, but the rest is out of my hands.

It is like donating blood. You don’t weep and wail if a patient’s blood type doesn’t match yours. You are the donor, they need you, they are the ones to wail. You just keep giving and some patient somewhere, thanks God above, and lives another day because you did.

So I am going to start working on my stories, polishing them and making them the best they can be. Then I will send them out knowing they are can’t be rejected, they are already accepted; by me and by many other people. All they need is a place to call home. I won’t worry about those non-matches, I won’t wail if it is something out of my hands. I will just keep going because to someone out there, they’ll be the sun and the sea.

Those are some of the stories that limited me and how I changed them. How about you? What stories do/did you need to change?

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How Papa Left

We were having dinner when the lights went out. Ma put on candles and our gaunt shadows seemed like gargoyles on the wall. Pa put his fork down and stomped away from the table. Soon we saw him by the door.
“Marcus, where are you going?” Ma asked.
“Out,” he replied. And before anyone could say more he was gone.

Days turned to weeks but there was no word of my father. Ma made calls, attended prayer vigils, asked everyone but Pa had disappeared.

“Let’s tell the police,” Uncle Makkel said. And so they went to the station the next day. When they were told how much they had to pay in bribes for the investigation to start. They came back sad.

Ma began to sell her wrappers and earrings. Uncle Makkel mortgaged one of his farms. We tried to raise money from our friends but all we got were excuses and had-I-knowns.

In a month, the money was ready and Ma wrapped it in an old newspaper and took it to the station. The police promised Pa would be back soon. Soon dragged on for weeks.

People told us stories of seeing Pa: on a canoe seventy kilometers away, in the market, at the bank, in a church. Ma began to check mortuaries for abandoned bodies.

Then Pa was brought home. He had been hit by a truck and was unconcious for weeks. He couldn’t remember my name and he often forgot what he wanted to say. We didn’t mind . It was just good to know the wait was over.

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Shameless Lover

It has been a year, or longer.
Your feet have not ceased to grace my door,
Your hands have not ceased to knock,
Your lips have not ceased to say my name.

I have been a bad one yes,
but my heart bore always your weight,
my nose always sought your scent,
my eyes saw always your face, on the curtain of my eyelids.

I return, unsure, afraid,
Will you meet me with an embrace or submerge me in slaps?
Will your lips kiss, or pucker to spit on me? Will your nails scratch?

On my fear, I don my strength
this is no time for trembling,
what must be done
must be done

So here I am
Before you,
Stone me or
Else
Bid me welcome.

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The Unravelling

They sat in silence. They’d dreaded this moment. She more than he.

“Do you really have to do this? Isn’t there anything I can say to stop you?”

“Honey, please, let’s not go over that again. The arrangements have been made. The bus will be here in an hour.”

“But why Dan? Have I been such a bad wife to you? Is there anything I haven’t given you? How can you just throw your life away like this? Like rotten fish?”

Her words slapped him, and something in him shifted.

“Like rotten fish ehn? Thank you for the compliment. I better walk up the road. Take care of Ade and Wana. Bye Shade.”

He left with the sound of her sobs drumming on his ears. Wana and Ade were asleep. He hated to imagine how it would have looked if they weren’t.

He loved Shade. She was the only other woman he had ever cared about enough to change. To sacrifice. For her he had stopped smoking. He had learnt cooking. He had even started going to church twice a month. No other woman had been able to keep his attention for this long. Six years and she still stirred him as much as she had on their first date.

Except at moments like this…

The sky was aglow with the colours of the setting sun. A gentle breeze played with the dry leaves, scattering them on the street like confetti. The evening was so beautiful, he was so miserable.

He remembered something he heard the pastor say last month.

“Anger lies in the bosom of fools.”

It was true. He wasn’t being reasonable right now. Any woman would be worried under the circumstances. Shade was just worried. Worried and scared. Why wouldn’t she be? People were giving their souls to run away from Liberia and here he was leaving for the same place as a volunteer. She probably thought he was mad.

The worse thing was that he hadn’t found words to tell her everything. He couldn’t express how excited he felt when he was offered the opportunity. He couldn’t tell her how the moment he read the email, life suddenly seemed ten times nicer, livelier.

The past two weeks had been like reliving his childhood. He was the toughest police chief on the playground, eliminating the thieves. He was him.

Now he had a chance to do it again. In real life, with a real thief called Ebola. He had a chance to do work that really mattered. Not the dead brain routines of Malaria, Typhoid and Diabetes. A real time Emerging Disease Epidemic Response, a real war. He couldn’t stay away for the world.

But.

He could go gently. He could hold Shade and rock her till the bus came. He could remind her of how much he loved her and the kids. He could go over the instructions for his memorial( there would be no burial, just ash in an urn). He could kiss her brows one more time.

So he went home and did so.

It would be 8 months before he returned, not in a stainless steel urn, but in the flesh.

Shade wouldn’t be at the airport to welcome him, neither would the kids.

He would spend the next two years looking for them and failing to find them.

He would discover that she had sold the house and the cars and the land he bought at Lekki.

He would fall into a bottomless depression. And pick up smoking again. And try weed, and like it. And over do it.

He would want to die and pray to do so before morning.

One day, he would get a call from Wana. She was fine, her mother had placed her in a Catholic boarding school in Kenya, she even spent holidays there. Ade was with mother somewhere in Europe. She missed him. She had tried to reach him but mom said she shouldn’t dare. Was he OK?

“Yes, I am fine.” Dan said. And for the first time in three years, he almost believed it.

He travelled to Kenya to see her. As he stood beneath the pine trees waiting, he remembered another place, another evening. Then she was running into his arms, quick as a bullet, and he felt the broken things inside him melding.

It would be a long fight. A long wait. But six years later Wana would be back home in Makurdi with him. He would not marry again. Stop smoking again. Start jogging again.

He would travel the world lecturing on Emerging Disease Response. He would receive more honours than the four walls of his study could hold.

He would forgive Shade (but they would never be friends again).

He would live to eighty-nine. And from time to time he would think over things. He would imagine how things would have been if he stayed. Then he would laugh and mutter to himself.

“There’s no way I was going to let that Bastard get away.”

* * * * *

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Paradise Dreamt

I held her in my arms today,

Pressed her wet warmth to my cold dryness,

Her innocent heart beat against my burning skin,

Felt her bounteous curves imprint my frame,

Inhaled the rose, mint, myrrh of her skin,

Closed my eyes with her head on my chest,

My dreams came true,

She loved me as madly as I have always loved her,

We married and eloped to Zanzibar,

She had twins and I was a stay-at-home dad,

We watched stars from our rooftop,

Sipped nectar from green coconuts,

I held her today,

Felt her fragile fear, saw her naked need,

Had her in my arms, possessed her in my world,

It might have been a dream,

Her, ever being with me,

But I held her in my arms today,

Until he came to take her away.

***

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Paradise Dreamt

I held her in my arms today,
Pressed her wet warmth to my cold dry skin,
Felt her bounteous curves imprint my frame,
Inhaled the rose, mint, myrrh of her skin,
Closed my eyes with her head on my chest and,
My dreams came true,
She loved me as madly as I have always loved her,
We married and eloped to Zanzibar,
She had twins and I was a stay-at-home dad,
We watched stars from our rooftop,
Sipped nectar from green coconut cups
I held her today,
Felt her fragile fear, saw her naked need,
Had her in my arms, possessed her in my world,
It might have been a dream,
Her, ever being with me,
But I held her in my arms today,
Until he came and took her away.

The Ultimatum

~Hymar David

A LETTER TO MR.OCCUPANT.

Yesterday, I did you a good turn and you repaid me by almost breaking my head. Well done.

You see, I was ill yesterday, I think you must have slipped something into that morsel of bread you threw into my corner. I got sick, yet I knew enough not to nibble on the bread you bought and left on the table. Because I didn’t want to give you my sickness. And what did I get? You chanced upon me suddenly and grabbed a broom. And I was telling Rachy that you are a decent person and not like the former occupant of the room. So much for that idea.

Our former occupant, what’s his name again? Ah, yes, Satan. That’s the name Rachy believes fits him best. The man was so evil, he planted a whooping nine traps in this tiny room. Nine traps! Just because we were so hungry we chewed a hole in his tennis shoes. How is it our fault the fool is broke and stingy? Even when he eats rice, there isn’t a single grain left on the plate, he cooks soup and cleans the china with his tongue. Once, he was eating biscuits in the presence of two friends, one of them a woman, he dropped a piece on the floor. Rachy was already jubilant because she thought the presence of his friends would deter him from picking it. But as she steeled herself for one mad dash to grab-and-run, Satan picked the piece, blew dirt off it and popped it into his mouth with a laugh.

That was when we declared war on him.

And by God, we gave him war.

We tore the room to shreds; we nibbled everything we could get our teeth on. Bedspreads? Check. Books? Check. Toothpaste? Check(not that he always had, the poverty of this man almost always saw him brush his teeth with salt and water). We called our friends in the other rooms of this face-me-i-face-you and wrecked total havoc. That huge and fearless Canine even gnawed at his toes at night and shat in his bathing water that he usually fetched and kept in a bucket in a corner of the room.

After two weeks, Satan got tired of turning the house upside down, hunting for us. He got tired of setting and resetting the traps which we had learned to navigate around. He packed his things and left.

That night, we had a victory dance in the empty room.

Dear new occupant, I am not trying to scare you, I just don’t want you to say one day that nobody told you.

I have as much right to this room as you do. I was born here. My mother’s blood has stained a trap, my father’s has stained the head of a pestle. I don’t know how my own would be but that is not my worry now. All I ask is be nice to me and I will be nice to you. After all, I eat the cockroaches you so detest. Wasn’t it yesterday your girlfriend came and got hysterical just because a cockroach crawled across the hem of her dress?

Here is a list of my conditions for peace to reign between us:

– Don’t throw away leftover food, keep it in a plate in the corner for Rachy and me. If you are too proud to feed ‘common rats’ just pack it in a nylon bag and leave it untied in the dustbin.

– If you attempt to poison us, we will know. Like my father used to tell us, ‘You know the onion by smell.’

– Keep your traps away, we are not like our cousins in the forest, if you are not eating us, stop hunting us down, I beg you.

– When you see us, don’t immediately reach for a broom or the pestle your girlfriend uses to pound yams when she is around. We are not the enemy, we are not threats. Relax, let us go our way. it is not like we sleep on your bed.

– Picking biscuits and groundnut from the floor is a sin against us. DO NOT do it.

I repeat, I am not threatening you. I just want you to know like I once heard Satan say, ‘no be by size.’ We have our way of dealing with people we don’t like. And we like you. You don’t have to like us back, just let us live in peace and feed off what you don’t want.

How is that too much to ask?

Your comrade,
Rattie

I obtained Mr David’s permission to post this here. I enjoyed reading it and would love to read your response too . Please tell us what you think in the comments. Thank you.

Photo credit: Google Images

The Dinner

Do you like reading flash fiction? I do. And I try to write it because it is fun to write and a great way to fight off writer’s block and stay in touch with my muse. Today’s offering was borne out of an experience I had two weeks ago. Please read and share and comment. And maybe write some flash fiction of your own in the comments.

The Dinner

We talked and laughed, he promised everything would be okay. We were his guests after all and they existed for us. Our rooms would be cleaned, the Wi-fi would work, the cockroaches killed, the staff would start being polite.

We ate his delicious three course meal with light banter and glasses of red wine.

Then we danced and cheered. And all the while, knowing nothing would change.

And for a week, we endured: late assignments, cockroaches in shoes, rude staff and more.

Then we’d had enough. And this time we didn’t talk. We packed our bags and by midday we were gone.

Have I told You I Love You?

Have I told you?
How much you mean to me?
Your presence is the tonic for my well being,
Your smile is the sun that chases my clouds away,
Your voice is the balm that turns my night to day,
You, rhythm in my pulse,
You, spring in my step,
You, smile that dances on my lips at night,
You, the safe place my dreams are kept.

Runaway Dad

Was I Madara Brook? they asked. Yes, I was, I said. Then sign here, they said and I did.

I picked the parcel with trembling fingers and stumbled to the nearest chair. My chest hurt, it was hard to breathe, so I opened the windows. Outside, the sun was bathing the sky in a canvas of colour, inside fear was swallowing me whole.

It had been thirty years. Thirty years of wondering if I still had a father, if he still remembered me, if we would look alike, if he would like my beef stews. I searched everywhere, interviewing my mother millions of times. Did he tell her what part of London he was from? Was Thomas his real name? Was she sure I was his?

Mom wasn’t sure. She had been broke at the time and miserable. Their affair lasted less than a month. And there were others, but she believed I was his. Believed. Like I was a sacrament.

I tore open the brown envelope, a lawyer called a week before to say he would be sending me what Jonathan Rivers had left me as his only living child. I left the phone slip through my hands and scatter into a dozen pieces.
I dragged out the computer first, then I assembled the smaller items on it: a butterfly knife, a toy car, a seashell, many other odd items and a letter.

My beloved daughter, it said, I know you are hurt and angry with me. I am sorry. I have followed your progress the past thirty years with great pride. Since my private detectives found you, I have spent the few pain free moments of my life reading about you on the internet.

I would have reached you while alive but it seemed selfish to burden you with my suffering. I was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago and given eight months to live. I knew my end was nigh. By the time you read this I will be gone, I want you to have these,souvenirs from a father you never knew.

I folded the letter and put it back in the brown box, then I dumped the ‘souvenirs’ in as well. Then I went to the back and made a fire and flung everything in it. Everything except the cheque he sent. I cashed that and bought a new house with a lake behind it, lots of red wine and a long black dress.

The Annals Of An Invisible People

Guy Scott is their Obama,
Adichie is their Emily Bronte,
Dangote is their Bill Gates

Garri is their bread,
Palm wine is their beer,
Gin is their vodka,

Lagos, is their New York,
Abidjan, their Paris,

The war in Mali? France’s Afganistan
The uprising in Burkina Faso? their Arab Spring,
Ebola, the ISIS of their infectious diseases,

Thomas Sankara is their Che Guevara,
Mo Abudu is their Oprah,
Mandela is their Ghandi,

These are in part,
The annals of the world’s invisible people.

We Shave Our Memories

We shave our memories off,
lock by lock,
they fall to the cold floor,
we rise,
stronger than before,
Snip goes our trip to Dakar,
Snip, our quarrel over babies
Snip, the surgery for a wrist swelling,
Snip, the ways we failed to keep our promises,
We shave our memories off,
Lock by lock,
We leave our essence in
And continue,
Our love walk.

Red and Black Helmets

They have ripped our tongues from us,
we are silent–
guns pushed down our throats, mirrors,pipes and bracelets
pushed into our father’s hands
grants,fame and dollars in ours,
our past is erased, they now airbrush our present,
we can not speak of yesterday’s horror,

we can not count the bodies, name the rapes, photograph the starving children,paint the naked women, mourn the nations past.

We can not speak of our now, they do not want to hear songs of hunger, read books of cockroaches in our pillows, and goat shit in our plates,
water from pits, beds in the bush.

No one wants to hear about our wars,

“You are rising!” they tell us

Prostrate, we nod, purple and red lizards stoned.

Tongues gone, they want our fingertips,
Buy our words, and the wrists that conjure them.

Wrists gone, they want our minds, so we must wear our helmets,
red hats, black bandanas,
we must cover our heads, shield our souls from attack,
that when heads roll, there will be signposts,

red and black skulls, speaking for us, like we never dared to try.

A Rainbow Of Tears

My mother had me for their security guard when she was nineteen. Grandpa would have chopped my dad into small pieces and dumped him in the lagoon but the neighbours called the police in time.

Grandma, she was stunned, speechless, so she just sat on the stairs and wailed till her tears turned to salt flakes.

Mom was already six months gone when they found out so an abortion was out of the options. Grandpa threw us out, so mom had to take me to the village to stay with Grandma’s mom.

Dad spent a couple of nights in police custody before Uncle Ahmed came to bail him. Mom thought he would come after us once he was free, but we didn’t see him again, for a very long time.

We found put later that he had many children from women he never married. The lady that told Grandma knew three. When Grandma heard this, she began to cry all over again.

Mother had me on a cold December night. It was the peak of Harmattan and I am told the thin roof of the health post shivered beneath the furious wind like a paper kite.

Since Grandpa had thrown us out, and Dad had run away, Mom had to find a way to support us. She would have loved to do that by modelling or hosting TV shows, but without a degree or any real contacts, that was fantasy.

She woke up by 4 am every morning to bake cakes in a large sand-filled pot. By 7am she swept and mopped floors in a nearby guest house. From 10 she did typing jobs for people that needed them. In between all this, she helped Daniel find tenants for the buildings his agency had been asked to manage. Anything to keep us from starving, anything to keep us from going back to beg Grandpa.

Sometimes Grandma would come to see us. She would bring plenty of food and clothes but she wouldn’t sit or smile or taste anything mom offered her. It felt like a video clip sometimes, one moment she was dragging bags of stuff in the house. The next, she was making small talk with mom and laughing a small stifled laugh, then she was gone. All that was left was my memory of her, with her eyes darting to either side of me while she spoke, like I was a flame, or a fire, something you couldn’t look at straight on.

Daniel started coming home to see Mom. I liked him because he always brought strawberry biscuits with him and he let me play with his phone.

One day he knelt down and offered mom something whispering some words to her. Mom shut her eyes tight and screamed at him. “Leave me alone!”

Daniel knelt there for sometime and my heart stopped in the silence. Then he walked out and banged our door shut.

Mom has been crying a lot of late. She keeps counting the days on the calender and shaking her head. The other night she bought something from the chemist and put pee on it. I know because I peeped.

One night I overheard her talking to someone on the phone. She said she was late and she didn’t know what to do and she wasn’t going to marry ‘him’. A river of ice surged through me then and felt myself break out in goose bumps.

The next morning Daniel came back and offered her something again. He didn’t kneel this time and mom didn’t scream. She collected it and put it on.
The ring sparkled in our little flat.

Its’ matter of fact brilliance brightened my mood. The sense of doom I had felt lifted and I could almost feel happy again. I wanted to freeze the moment, to be at that spot watching mom and Dan hug and seeing the light bounce off the ring in a rainbow of colours forever.

So I closed my eyes and soaked it in, for then and for afterwards.

The Fellowship of The Last Bus

For Nd

We had become a community– The Fellowship Of The Last Bus. Every night we sat in silence as the ancient 911 crawled through the capital to the outskirts where our homes were.

Seats were fixed. The slender middle aged nurse sat beside the driver. the nurse’s wife was from the driver’s village so they called themselves ‘In-law’ but watching them laugh and gist in low conspiratorial tones, heads thrown back to savour spontaneous laughter, they could pass for twins.

In the middle were the business women, over dressed in fitting skirts and jackets. They were often on the phone, bellowing at an unseen customer to pay up or be dealt with. Sometimes they called their parents to find out how they were, sometimes they just placed their heads on the seats in front of them and fell asleep.

I sat at the back, last seat on the left, from there I watched the goings-on in the bus or let my eyes wander, through the windows I watched men peddle fruit and cigarettes, women push wheel barrows full of sand, and little children shepherd cows across hills.

Sometimes I wore my ear phones and let music carry me away, but my eyes kept flipping open and I was at the back of the bus again.

Until she came.

She stood at the door for a second and everyone sort of paused. I saw the hesitation in her eyes and I wanted to smile at her or to beckon but I looked out of the window instead and counted tricycles.

“Is anyone beside you?”

I shook my head because no sounds were coming from my mouth. She smelled so good, like she just walked out of a scented shower and her pink toe nails looked coy against her cobalt blue sandals. I could hear my heart beating and I wasn’t sure why. Sweat trickled down my armpit and I felt a little cold inside.

She got off at the next stop and I realised I didn’t know her name so I got off some fifty meters later and took a tricycle to her stop.

We spent forty minutes driving in and out of side streets, but she was gone.

She didn’t show up the next day, or the one after that. We had a few other newbies– a nun, a middle aged man with a large brown enveloped tucked under his arm who had come from Awka to petition against deductions in his pension, a honeymooning couple who snuggled so close together I feared they would fuse. After a week, I stopped looking.

Then she showed up again, and walked to the back. I didn’t wait for her to ask. I moved over and said, “Hi girl, where have you been?”

“Around,” she said, with a cryptic smile on her lips.

“Good to see you here again.”

“Good to know. You’ll see plenty of me from now on. I got a job at MTN. Today was my first day at work.”

And that’s how I met Endie, Ndifreke Isangedighi. I didn’t know this then but we would stay friends for life, through jobs and transfers, through weddings and a divorce. We would quit the last bus community, buy cars and have drivers. But everytime a large corporate bus would drive past me after work hours, I would find myself in the bus again re-learning the simple art of making friends.

When I Am President Of The World

When I am president of the world
I will ban ‘they’.
All that will be is
You and I,
Us,
We will do something about our planet,
Respond to health needs in our world, wherever they occur,
We’ll learn to adore the brown, beige and popcorn of our skin,
We’ll taste each others names afresh and savour their sweetness on our tongues,
We’ll settle our differences, find ways to work around our dislikes,
When we are hungry, we will find food because what I so desperately need is what you are glutted with and now throw away.
In a world where there is no they, or them,
In a world where there is just you and me, us and we,
There will be no more pain.

Politically Incorrect Affair

There are no words for what we have
No terms to express
The tenderness
Specialness,
Sweetness
That is you and I,
So we hide
Pretend not to feel
Pretend not to care
Pretend not to smell each others hair,
We silence our hearts
Swallow ballads whole
Let our brown eyes flicker then dive to the floor,
Suffer without sound
As feelings well up and crash against our ribbed chests,
Living for stolen times
When our spirits meet
And like embraces like
Lips meet cheek
We commune in spirit
No need to speak.

God Seeker

Stop searching
For me in your test tubes
Stop groping for me in your equations
Stop straining your eyes against the stars to catch a glimpse of my existence.

Don’t stand
On the earth I created
And mouth blasphemy

Kneel
And accept you don’t know it all

Or else make your own planet and your moons

And venture into a galaxy
Of your own

Oh, but leave your earth suit behind
And the breath you borrowed from me.

Crescent and Cross

His hair,black short and curly
His eyes, large warm and doe-like
His voice and the way he says my name,
His hands and the way they wrap themselves around my frame,
A liaison most unlikely
A pact unapproved,
Can a crescent and a cross
Play as one?
Isn’t it strange
I travelled a thousand kilometres
To find him
A brother from another time
Sitting right next to me.

This Just Can’t Work

I watch her sashay past and rap on the door. She looks good in her ankle length gown, golden gele and bracelets that jingle like bells.

Oga opens the door and they share a kiss before he whisks her inside. Later that evening, they stroll out, whispering in each others ears. Oga tickles her, she laughs, a lilting soothing sound and I can’t remember hating anyone so much.

Soon they are back. Oga carries all the bags. They’ve bought rice, stew, salad and ice-cream. She is talking and twirling her hands in the air to make a point. That’s when I realise that something has to be done. If she goes on this way, she’ll be Mrs Ukwak by Saturday.

My options are limited. I am not bad as far as Mercedes Benz 190’s go but I am sure you can already see my difficulty. I can’t talk, at least not without giving Oga a heart attack and I can only influence things when they are close to me. But this is no time for excuses, it is a time for results, so deliver I must.

You must be wondering how my boss’ love interest is any of my business. What does a car stand to lose from a wedding? What loyal being wouldn’t want his owner happy, settled and fruitful? Definitely not me.

I want all that for my boss and more, only, not with Amara.

I know Amara from way back, I noticed her one day at the car wash when she came to see some guy called Carl. I was waiting my turn at the sponge and I couldn’t help over hearing the telephone conversation she was having.

“Oh Dani!”Amara squealed into the phone. “Of course I missed you. The thing is, I am not in town, I travelled to Kaduna for a retreat.”
“Sure, of course, I will. I love you too. You did? Thank you, the fifty thousand will go a long way. Thank you. Bye”

Her phone rang again.

“Wow! Emeka! Yeah, long time. I have missed you too. Aww, I couldn’t make it to Lagos anymore, but I’ll try to make it up to you. I promise. The money you sent is still in my account and once I get a break, you’ll be my first stop.” She was smiling at the phone and twirling her weave.

“Oh my goodness, you are in town? You should have told me baby, I am out in Jos on business. I told you I don’t do surprises. Anyone trying to surprise me only ends up surprising themselves.”

No kidding.

Before Carl came to pick her two other callers had been given three other stories, one of them was a even a woman. At some point, I had to read the sign boards around again to myself, I had to remind myself I was in Port Harcourt, not Jos, Kaduna, Dubai or Yenegoa.

Now here she was with Oga, playing the saint, I was having none of it.

I get my chance soon. The next morning they tumble in to rush her to work. She jumps out screaming. In the process, I rip her yellow silk blouse and smudge it with some grease.

“Ouch! Oh no, Jerry! That seat just burnt me! And look, my blouse is gone!”

Oga darts out and runs to her side. “What seat, Amara? Calm down. Let me see, it isn’t so bad. We can get a new one–”

“That seat,” she says, pointing at the front passenger seat. “That seat nearly peeled off my skin. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it wrecked my best silk blouse too.” By now her voice has risen a few octaves and she looks like she is about to cry. I feel like pinching her to hurry things on but I am busy.

I am working over time to cool the seat heater. I make it just in time for Oga’s probing fingers.

He runs his palms over the black leather seat with a frown on his face. “It is normal,Amy, a little warm but definitely not bum-burning.”

“But it just burnt my bum. I sat on it and it was like sitting on a hot plate.”

“Come on, Amara, don’t be dramatic. Let’s go before I get late.”

“Oh. So I am being dramatic now?” She replies with a flip of her braids. “Your useless, archaic, malfunctioning car burns me and I am being dramatic? Well, you better get going then because I am not going anywhere with you. Sorry broke ass.”

She grabs her bag and storms away before Oga can say a word. When he recovers enough to ask her to wait, she is gone.

I smile inside. I am savouring this little victory. Oga ll probably go begging to bring her back and maybe he’ll succeed. But I have a plan for that.

For now, let’s enjoy the peace.

I Am With You

I am with you,
On the crowded streets littered with bloated bodies,
In the black of night when the bats flap their wings and shriek directions to their next cave,
When the sun is overhead, a silent yellow ball burning melanomas into unsuspecting skin,
When you jump in fright as the gunshots echo down the alley,
Through dreams where friends morph into monsters,
To the end of time.

LindaGate: OMG LindaIkeji’s ‘Blog Not Found’

The past four days have witnessed an escalation of hostilities between Ms Linda Ikeji and a man known as MrAydee over copyright violations.

Mr Aydee accused Ms Ikeji of taking pictures from his blog and using them on hers without attribution. He asked for the posts to be taken down but says Ms Ikeji ignored him, then blocked him on Twitter.

Thereafter, he reported her to Google who took down the posts and according to Ms Ikeji changed her Adsense settings.

Mr Aydee and some other Twitter users alerted other global blogs to Ms Ikeji’s use of their material without permission, blogs like Getty Images and Daily Mail.

Yesterday, Ms Ikeji replied with a robust response stating that she had used material without permission but that so did every other person. She accused Mr Aydee and Jeremy Weate of wanting to bring her down.

At the end of her response she stated that God was with her and no one was big enough to bring her down.

Ayo Sorungo wrote a rejoinder. addressed to Ms Ikeji titled Re: The Guys That Want To Take LIB Down. In his letter he said,

“To people like me, the moral right to be acknowledged as the writer is sufficient, and we do not care much about the economic rights—which is why I will never get to buy a Range Rover.”

And went on to advise Ikeji on business model changes that would prevent such trouble in future.

Naija Twitter (as the Nigerian arm of Twitter is called) was aflame with opinions, jokes, jibes, twitfights and even death threats.

Some writers used the opportunity to re-open Intellectual Property (IP) debate in earnest. Elnathan John, Jeremy Weate, Sugabelly, and many others wrote to express their displeasure with the current state of affairs–Bloggers lifting material with intrepidity.

Linda Ikeji Blog Readers–LIBers as they are called– jumped to Ms Ikeji’s defence.

Also in her defence was MrFixNigeria, and Chude writer of ‘Are We The Turning Point Generation’ (Cough,cough) and owner of YNaija.

This afternoon however, Ms Ikeji’s blog was declared ‘not found’.

Does this mean the demise of the ‘most popular blog’ in Nigeria?

Only Time will tell.

To Jeeps Jealous Of Words

You think it is about your ‘Jeep’
Four wheels already second-hand,
Or your yellow metals
Or fancy leather bags,
You think it’s easy to bleed onto a page,
Tumbled thoughts turned to joy, to pain, to light, to rage,
Wooden words made alive.

I suppose it is for you exist,
So you can raid my blog
And take your pick
Put your name to my sweat
Paste your greed to my work.

Fat hairy lie.

You might have your jeeps
And bling,
You may have your temporary things,

I have something
You cannot steal,
A tower of salt you can only pinch
A sea you can merely spoon from
A canvas without sides.

And when Jeeps and bling and things are gone,
Words will remain.

I Am Coming

I
Am coming to you,
Heart beating like a crazy drum
Sweat on my palms
Black fear in my soul.

Will you welcome me?
Pull me close to your bosom
Let me bury my face in your hair
And inhale your peppermint smell,
Or will you turn away
From what I have become
From the rage that has marked my face making it a rough mask,
From the bullet wounds, now scars,
Can you embrace the man I have become?

Written in response to I Am Waiting, by @iamibiene on her lovely blog Sweet Nectar here here

The Things Between Our Legs

Young man,
I sit by the midwife’s couch
And wait for you to show me where your superiority was born.

I want to see when you became more equal,
to hold it and smell it.
To wrap it around myself.

I want to be taught the maths of worth.
How a human is made invisible, how a woman disappears,
how oppression evolves, how sacrifice is undone.

Could it be when I carried your father for inside me for nine long months?
Weathering Morning sickness, Malaria, Anaemia and HIV?

Or was it while I walked two kilometres without food or water through a pain that defies words to squat on this couch and push you out?

It can’t be while I nursed you at my breast,
Fed you from my body for twenty four.

Aha! It was when you became a man.

When you no longer needed a napkin change,

When you learnt how to blow your nose,

When my pots were empty and my grain had fed you fat,

When your muscles rippled as you walked,

When you were old enough to work, and you had discovered the thing between your legs could put urine in bottles,

And forgot the thing between mine had borne you.

No Black Bones

Look, let your eyes meet my soul
Come, let the harmonies unfold
Let lies die as truth is told.

Hold my hand, let our palms kiss
And our veins nuzzle,
Listen to the rhythm as our pulses blend,
Our heart beat a tune.

If all that differs is without, are we empty shells?
Drifting to powder and dust?

Can’t you see
We are the same?
Same blood, same buttocks, same bones?

Follow me to the skeleton pile,
Do you see any black men there?
I thought so, too.

Good People Don’t Die

I come to mourn you
To bathe my mind with
The pain of losing you,
The soak my thoughts
In things that now can not be.

My heart
Dangles in my chest
Like a bag of rubble,
Regret echoes
Pepper on my pain.

Then I hear a whisper–

“Good people don’t die.

They are not stopped by an idiot’s bullet,
They are not cowed by cancer’s cowardice,
They are not bent by a madman’s machete,
They are not silenced by the hangman’s noose.

They live on,
In the immortal words of their wisdom
They thrive in the permanence of deeds done,
They flourish in the hearts of those that love them.

Good people don’t die
They live
In me and you.”

Open Letters

For every word spoken, a dozen are swallowed,
A thousand killed for each written,
A million murdered for every one published.

It is not my fault.
It is the world we live in.

Even now I see the titles
They dance and sing
A Merry-Go-Round

An Open Letter To My Primary Three Bully.

An Open Letter To My First Crush.

An Open Letter To The First Doctor That Awed Me.

An Open Letter To The Makers Of Chewing Gum.

There’s also

An Open Letter To Nollywood Film Makers.

An Open Letter To Men That Go Outside Their Homes To Have Sons.

An Open Letter To Mr President.

An Open Letter To The Emerging Nigerian Writer.

An Open Letter To Content Poaching Big Blog Owners.

An Open Letter To Private Jet Haters.

Lest I forget,

An Open Letter To The People I Angered.

And

An Open Letter To The Person I Used To Be.

The Gender Conversation I

This is harder to write than I thought. My head says this topic is over-flogged. My heart disagrees.

Head: What do you think you are going to say that has not been said already?

Heart: Nothing. Really. But maybe I can help one more person look at things differently. Maybe I can help myself look at things differently.

Head: And that will achieve?

Heart: Nothing. But perhaps it will give someone hope. Perhaps it will help someone up.

Head: How?

Heart: By helping them see–

Head: See what

Heart: That gender equality is not something to be fought for.

Head( gasps and glares) : Tell me something.

Heart: That is what I am trying to do. I don’t see men fighting to be male or children fighting to be child-like. There is no inequality of genders. Why are we imagining one?

Humans are equal.
Genders are equal
Women, men, transgender, asexual, all are humans. All are equal

Head: How dare you say that? After all that the patriarchy has done to women?! Stopping them from voting, working, even driving? Just because they happened to possess a different set of genitals?

Heart: Yes, certain systems have oppressed women over the years but that does not change their worth. I am not less because I have been troubled or hunted or silenced or imprisoned. In fact, I am more.

No one bothers to oppress or repress what they are superior to.

When Caucasians oppressed and sold Africans, did that make us less than they were? I think not.

Oppression is not the basis of worth.

Head: But women can’t do the things men do. They can’t–

Heart: Pee in bottles?

Head: Not that, they can’t run as fast or jump as high or light as many kilograms.

Heart: Interesting. But neither can most men.

Or people with special needs.
Or people with injuries.
Does that make them less male? Or less human? If I took away some of your abilities would you become less human?

Are you a human being or a human doing?

Besides Serena Williams (and many other women) can run faster than many men, jump higher, lift more and earn more. Does that make her a Superman?

Head: Don’t be silly.

Heart: Silly? I am being reasonable, patient, tolerant and kind.

Head: How so?

Heart: I am painstakingly telling you things you have always known yet wilfully ignores just to make sure your wife serves you pounded yam every afternoon.

Head: Don’t you dare bring that up!

Heart: Why?

Head: Because that is what you F**** do. You disrupt homes, spin society on its head, dishonour authority. Be faraway from me!

Heart: Calm down. It is not that bad. Yes sometimes, we F****** overdo things. And sometimes we do them wrong. But those are mistakes not standards.

The standards are simple: let no human be discriminated against because of gender.

In fact, the standards are so universal we are planning a name change–

Head: A WHAT?!

Heart: A name change. Since F****** has become a taboo word, we formerly known as F****** now wish to be known and addressed as Humanists. (Broad smile)

Head(deep groan): How can you? Haven’t you caused enough trouble already? Must you create an anti- religion now?

Heart: Not really. The word has four meanings. Go with the fourth one.

Head: Which is?

Heart: marked by humanistic values and devotion to human welfare.

Head: That is confusing.

Heart: Yes it is. The entire spectrum of human oppression, sexism,racism, war, famine, and poverty is confusing.

But we can’t stop trying. We have to keep trying. Not to make sense of it, but to stop it. To contain it. To help free people that are suffering because of it.

We can’t look away and pretend it doesn’t exist. We can’t wish it away either. We must do what we can where we are to change the injustices we find around us.

Head: But what about families? What about wives? Would you have them disrespect their husbands? Or would you have women stay single? What is the way for these women empowering ideas to exist within the family structure?

Heart: It is easy. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Dress up, It is time for work.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of the Gender Conversation. I hope to continue it tomorrow. So please share and come back to read the next part. Many thanks!

The Equality Inquest

Who is afraid of her?
Who is terrified that she will take their place, play their games and usurp their names?

It can’t be a superior
Superiors delight in the glow of a lesser as it casts light up on them.

Not a peer
An equal finds pleasure in a sparring partner worthy of the encounter.

We know now
Who it is.

It is a being unsure of their identity,
A creature of fear.
A dread of what might indeed be,
A jealousy deeper than the Red Sea,
A loser’s war,

Forfeit
as she surges onward
Winning more
More,
More.

Guardian Angel

I told her not to marry him but it was like talking to an electric train. Her mind was made up, my words were a waste.

I listened in disbelief as my twenty-one year old sister begged me to remember her “biological clock was ticking.”

I marvelled as she bade me to reconsider, because “all her mates were married.”

I gasped when she declared that I should get used to it, she was marrying Leo with or without my blessing. Kponkwem.

As I listened to her, lava coursed through my veins. I was angry, livid even, but I wasn’t sure who my ire was for.

Part of it was for a society that made Diana think marriage was a trophy; a 50 metre sprint where the fastest women got medals and flowers instead of a gruelling marathon-relay where your partner’s skill and commitment was as important as endurance, focus and having fun.

Another part of my anger was for myself, I should have seen this coming. I should have stopped this from coming.

Maybe if I had worked hard enough on getting that government health centre renovation contract, and had the cash at hand to pay her bit for the partial Masters scholarship she had won at Emory.

Maybe if I had moved to Abuja at the beginning of the year as I had earlier planned…

Maybe, the eternal twin of perpetual regret.

I told Nkoyo that Diana wanted to get married and she was quiet. She was so quiet that the silence formed a cloud around my ears and began to ring like a bell.

We had been dating for three years and four months. She was twenty-seven and I was thirty. I knew we would be having “The Talk” soon and I wasn’t ready.

It wasn’t the money or anything. As a site engineer for a telecom outfit, I could afford a family. What I couldn’t afford was my well ordered life spinning on its heels. I liked the single life. Change was inevitable, I knew but I wasn’t in a hurry.

Hadn’t been in a hurry, until now.

I called a colleague on vacation in the US and asked him to help bring the platinum ring I ordered.

I shouldn’t have bothered, Nkoyo left me four days later.

“I am sorry, Mon. I don’t think this is what I want anymore.”

I thought she was joking.

It took two weeks of failed reunion attempts for me to get it.

I had been dumped.

Diana and Leo’s wedding held three months later, Diana was glowing like a giant fire-fly while Leo was a frowning frog.

Mom was so happy, I thought she would burst.

I hid my frustration and smiled for the cameras. But inside I was drowning in a bog.

The conversation we had at the doors of the church before I walked her up the aisle lingers…

“Monday”

“Yes, Diana”

“Be happy for me, OK? Please?”

“Diana, you know– alright. Don’t look at me like that. Look, everyone is waiting.”

“Let them wait. I need your blessing Mon, please.”

“God be with you little sis.”

“Amen.”

With that, she raised her head and straightened her back and we walked into the church. Behind her veil, tears shone in her eyes, and I began to wonder if it was real.

Could Leo be the love of Diana’s life?

Was I just being a miserable brother-in-law eating ogre?

After the wedding, Diana went back to her job teaching at a private university in Aba while Leo was in Calabar with me. He worked at a bank as a marketer, but we seldom met and never called.

A month later, Diana got a fabulous job in an international oil company in Port Harcourt. No matter how I teased she wouldn’t tell me how much she was earning.

“Mon, it is huge. Gosh! I can’t believe it.” She kept saying again and again.

Soon she called to say she was expecting. Twins. No, she didn’t know what sexes yet. Yes, she was fine. Very fine.

She had boys after ten hours of labour. Twinkle and Delight, Leo called them, like they were puppies or bear cubs. My dislike for him morphed into congealed contempt.

One weekend, I ran into him at a supermarket.

“Hey Mon, how are you doing?” Leo said.

“Good. Aren’t you supposed to be in
Port Harcourt with your family?

“I couldn’t make it man. I was tired, needed a rest.”

There was a pause. My sister was juggling twin boys, a new job, a strange town and this idiot was talking about rest?

Thoughts shifted in my head on cue, then all I saw was red, my fists burying themselves in his light skinned jowls, my knees kneading his balls in sharp succession, a tooth or two rolling on the cream tiles, and an immense sense of relief.

I smiled instead and walked away.

That weekend, I called in a few favours and by Monday, Leo was sacked.

When Diana called I sympathised. It was horrible, Leo being let off like that. Curse those horrid new generation banks.

The next time I saw her she was lying in a hospital bed with wires running out of every part of her.

“He didn’t mean to,” she croaked out of a broken jaw.

“Of course not, love. Shh don’t say a word.” I replied, crouched by her bed. That’s when everything became clear and I knew what had to be done.

The police booked it as a hit and run. Leo survived, making kids orphaned had never been my style. I was content to see him lose a leg. There wouldn’t be anymore beatings, or absenteeism.

Who knows? Maybe Diana would wake up someday and leave him. Yeah, I know, fat chance.

Gender Equations

Are men and women equal?
If no,
Who is the lesser?

The woman?
Because she has fewer muscles?

The man?
Because he does not bear a womb?

Are all humans equal?
Is the poor man equal to the rich?
Is the lame man equal to the athlete?
Is the illiterate equal to the prof?

Is human life a mere function of what one has, or does or owns?

Or is it more?

Is it the soul?

The unseen man
Not man made or man destroyed,
Keeper of conscience
Tender, seared or scoured?

Tell me, teacher
I need to know.

In And Out Of Time

The time difference, that is what ruined things in the end. Shangai was five hours ahead of Ibesikpo and their lives were that far out of sync.

When she woke up and wanted to spend a few minutes gisting, he was running off to a high power board meeting.

When he wanted to unwind and tell her about his day, she was battling narrow corners with tricycle drivers.

When she wanted to have a quick skype chat before stepping out for a walk, he was fast asleep and his attempts to reply quickly became soft snores.

It made no sense.

Except on Saturdays by 5pm, Ibesikpo time.

When she was back from a long day in the market and he was tucked in bed with a cup of green tea.

And they would trade stories and tell each other jokes and dream of what could have and maybe would still be.

But even that was not enough, when she was posted to Iwoukem. Six long hard weeks without a word, and their long distance love succumbed.

Learning How To Hold You

It has been seven short years
But I am still learning how to hold you,
Tremulous at first,
Across the abyss of heart breaks past,
Compared to maestros and charlatans alike,
Driven by a need stronger than my fear,
Surer with time,
As you filled my palms, my arms
With your lithe form,
Firmer through the miscarriage
And the other one, and the other one.
Gentle again
As I waited with bated breathe
Then wild with joy
When I saw our boy,
Now unsure again, waiting for the stitches to heal,
But eager to learn,
I will keep learning how to hold you Babe,
Through every turn.

Chocolate Memories & Brandy Dreams

He lay in the dark listening to the sound of her snoring. He counted to twenty in his head before he slid off the bed and tiptoed to the door. The rhythm of her gusty bellows remained unchanged, so he crept out and made his way downstairs.

As he hobbled down the steps he couldn’t help smiling at himself. Henry Earl Henshaw, former governor, two time senator,former Nigerian ambassador to Canada etc etc, now a late middle aged man, dying of diabetes, banned from eating anything, drinking anything….

This was his longest attempt at staying clean. Magdalene had rid the house of every single bottle of rum, brandy and vodka he owned. He could still hear the screams and shouts of his nephews as they carted everything out amidst lavish thanks. Gosh, how he hated them. Fools, blind in the vanity of their youth, deaf to old age or illness, running off to find the next high, the next skirt to hit.

A spasm of pain raced through his belly and he stifled a scream. No use waking Maggi now, he was almost there. There was one place they hadn’t looked when they were looting his bottles–his library. There he had a three quarter full bottle of Le Valier brandy waiting. Two shots and he would be fine, the pain would pass and he would feel free again.

He limped past the fridge and found himself opening it. It was filled with the usual things: bread, oranges, cough syrup, water and chocolate cake. He loved chocolate cake and he hadn’t tasted any in six months. He pinched a bit of it and savoured the taste then cut a slice and shut the fridge as quietly as he could.

“No Henry.”

He spun around to find Maggi glaring at him. Her full figure was still lovely at 49, the pink silk net on her hair gave her the air of a fairy godmother, the anger in her eyes singed his soul.

“Please Maggi, just a little, just a piece.”

“I’m sorry, Henry, but no. The doctors said you can’t. We are still awaiting your test results. Please, let’s go upstairs.”

So he let her lead him back upstairs to the bed. And he kept savouring the memory of the cake and imagining the taste of his Le Valier until sleep came and with it dreams of being 29 again and conquering bottles, cakes and babes with no thought for the morrow.

Pink Or Blue?

When Oma brushed past him without a word, Joshua knew something was wrong. He wanted to hurry after her and ask her what the matter was but his legs felt stiff, so he went to fridge and poured himself some pineapple juice instead.

Sipping from his glass he tried to imagine what could have upset her. He had given her the month’s upkeep. He had serviced her car. He had kissed her on his way out that morning. He was blameless.

So with that, he rose to find his wife and the reason for her annoyance.

Oma was curled up in bed covered with a duvet. The room was quiet but he could see her shoulders rise and fall and he could hear her sniffle. He rushed to her side.

“Oma, are you alright? What is wrong?”

“Leave me alone. Joshua. Leave me alone!”

“You know I’ll never do that, honey. Tell me. What is wrong?”

“Everything. Josh. Everything is wrong. You told me this baby was going to be a boy didn’t you? You refused to try any family balancing options, laughed at all the Chinese calendars and said you knew. Well, I am just back from the hospital and the radiologist says it is a girl. Well done Mr Seer.”

A pool of ice settled in his belly. It couldn’t be. The baby was a boy. His spirit told him so, God told him so. He could still remember the exact words whispered in his spirit.

“You shall have a son and his name will be Prince. He shall eat the good of the land and he shall be a blessing to his family, his country and his generation.”

Now this?

Oma’s sobs grew louder and more distraught, he gathered her into his arms and wiped away the snot and the tears. “It is okay babe. Don’t cry. A son will come.”

“When? Honey? When? Kayla is 6, Marla is 5. I am turning 35 next month. When will I have time to get pregnant again? And how are we supposed to care for another mouth? We wanted 3 children remember? I am tired honey. I prayed, I believed. Why?”

Joshua had never been a talking man, now words eluded him altogether. He adored his daughters, and even now that they were with his parents for the weekend he felt incomplete. He knew Oma had always wanted sons. And though he didn’t share her obsession, he had prayed and God had promised him his next child would be a boy. But now, he wasn’t so sure.

He wasn’t sure at all.

So instead of answering Oma’s questions, he held her and rocked her in his arms till sleep came.

* * *

The next few months were blur. his job as a company secretary had him traveling around the country. Thankfully he had saved his annual leave for July when the baby was due. Despite his schedule he couldn’t help noticing Oma had changed. She was no longer excited about the baby. She stopped buying baby and pregnancy magazines. She walked off when cute baby boys came on screen.

During their daily devotions her prayers were brief, like she was just ticking a register. He hardly saw her study. Nowadays she spent more time sleeping or fiddling with her phone.

In his times of prayer, he reminded God of the words he heard and listened with his whole being for a response. All he ever heard was, “Peace My Son, Fear Not.”

Once while looking for a nail cutter he stumbled on a half-empty baby bag and a list of baby items beside the dresser. “Honey, what is this why haven’t you bought any baby clothes?” Joshua asked.

“There is no need. The baby ll wear what we have.” Oma replied with a hard edge in her voice.

Ignoring her, he took the list and went to get the items himself.

“Pink or blue?” The sales-girl asked holding up two sleep-suit sets. “Or would you prefer green?”

Joshua thought for a while. Dressing a girl in blue would be so drab and might make the child feel unwanted. Every girl deserved pink. Green was doubt. Unbelief in action.

“I’ll have blue. Three sets.”
***

A week later, Oma’s water broke as she rose from bed. Doctors were on strike so they couldn’t go to the Teaching Hospital where she had registered. A couple of phone calls later they were directed to Shava Specialist Hospital. The lead midwife there spoke to them and told them to hurry, third deliveries were often much faster than previous ones.

As they got closer to the hospital excitement melded with anxiety inside him. This was the first time he was witnessing Oma in labour. Marla was born when he was in Malaysia for a course, Kayla while he was in London for a company meeting. Oma was panting and he had a feeling she felt more pain than she was showing. He found parking space and the orderlies came and took Oma in a wheelchair.

They had discussed it and she had told him she didn’t want him in the room. He was happy to agree. Some of his friends had followed their wives in, the stories weren’t pretty.

So he walked the grounds instead, praying for a safe delivery for Oma and their baby.

The midwife was right, Oma delivered after five hours. Fours hours faster than when she had Marta, six hours faster than when she Kayla.

Joshua held his baby and tears flowed down his face. The baby was so perfect. Pink, healthy, whole, nothing missing. The radiologist was wrong.
He was a boy.

Laughing through his tears, Joshua bowed his head, “Thank you Father. Your Word is final authority. Thank you Lord. In Jesus name.”

“Amen”, Oma intoned as he gathered her into his arms and they held each other, in silent awe of God’s goodness and love.

No Prizes For Cowards

A poem to mark the making of the female Thor and the Black Captain America.

I exist without your consent,
Thrive without your meaningless rhetoric,
I have never needed your smile to stand tall,
Never need your nod to be all
I was created and designed to be
You can’t define me in recycled dregs of burn-out or
Lack of creativity.

If you aren’t brave enough
To discover me,
That’s alright,
No one’s giving you a prize for this
Half-baked redeemer fight,
Look away in shame
Like you always have,
Truth will find a way
She always has.

Second Chances 1

We shuffled into the house in silence. It had been a long drive from his mom’s place to mine. Shaq had stayed glued to his novel all through the trip. My efforts at drawing him into a conversation felt clumsy, like a string of paper balls that couldn’t find the trash can.

“Welcome home.” I said, putting on the lights.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

“I fixed you a room, I hope you like it. Let’s have a look.”

I prayed he would like it. I lived alone in the 3 bed-room apartment but I wanted him to feel wanted here, so I had made one of the rooms into what I thought was a male teenager’s dream. I had the walls repainted in gentle blue and brown stripes. Matching curtains, a persian rug, a small bookshelf and an abstract painting helped to complete the picture. As I showed him in, I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

My teen years had been spent on a naked mattress on the floor shared with three brothers. My bookshelf was a piece of trampoline spread out in a corner. My abstract, the patterns of clouds and stars that danced far above me through missing window panes. Even now, soft beds made uncomfortable, in many hotels I just spread a towel on the floor and went to sleep. But this wasn’t about me, it was about Shaq.

He walked in and dropped his Ghana-Must-Go bag by the bed. I winced at the sight. There was so much I had to make up for. So much I had to undo in my relationship with my son. I wished things were different. I wished I hadn’t abandoned his mom fifteen years ago when I heard she was pregnant.

“See you at dinner, in an hour,” I said, as I closed the door and strode away. I didn’t listen for his reply, I was too busy trying to escape my thoughts. My shame. But they embraced me and soon I was back in Utoke, fifteen years ago….

Telling My Baby About Chibok

We lay on the bed, in the semi-darkness listening to neighbouring generators assault the night with their discordant droning. We had just finished a session of mock tests on Verbal Reasoning and Simple Maths. Examinations were two days away and we had a lot to revise before we could claim to be ready. The past sixty minutes had been spent on word sums and codes before The Power Holders struck. In the silence that followed, I cradled my Blackberry and scrolled through my Twitter TL, I didn’t notice her searching eyes following every movement on my phone’s screen.

“Why are you doing that? Scrolling up and down so fast without reading anything?” She asked me.

“I am reading. I read a little faster than you do but I am not just racing past. Besides I have read some of this before.” I answered, sensing there was more to come and considering dropping the phone before someone decided to post a nude selfie on the TL.

“Wait! What is that? Why is a frog drinking tea? Do frogs drink tea?” She asked, her face buckled in a frown.

“Uuuh it is a puppet. Kermit. Like the one I put my hands in when I am pretending to be a Tiger.”

“Oh. Wait. What is #BringBackOur Girls ?”

Somewhere inside me I began to wonder what other things my inquisitive 6 year old had read. And to kick myself for not pocketing the phone while I could.

“It is a campaign. A call to action. Some people stole some girls about 3 months ago. #BringBackOurGirls is a call for them to be rescued.”

“Stole? Who stole them? Boko Haram?”

I sat up and looked at her in surprise. “Who told you about Boko Haram?”

“I dunno,” she shrugged, “radio or TV or something.”

“Hmm. Well, yes, so they went to a school and took away girls in the middle of the night.”

“Oh no!” She said, her eyes as wide as saucers. “But how could that happen? Where were their teachers?”

” Their teachers were away.”

“Away?” She asked raising her eyebrows.” How did Boko Haram know the girls were there?”

“It looks like they were informed by some school staff. The Police and the Army are looking into it.”

“How many of them were stolen?

“234.”

“Two hundred and thirty-four! Oh men! That’s so bad.”

“Yes it is.”

“I saw a girl carrying a banner on Aunty Christy’s phone, it said Our Girls Are Not For Sale…”

She snuggled closer and her voice became smaller. “I am scared,” she said.

“It is OK, dear. Don’t be scared. No harm can come to you. You are safe here.”

I wrapped my arms around her and I told her we would protect her. I told her God was with her. I told her everything would be fine.

Then I closed my eyes and clenched my fists willing myself to believe my words.

Raw Deal

For Lily

She lets Prince kiss her. Moving to his rhythm, making the right sounds at the right places, she is the perfect partner tonight. Her thoughts pirouette through the window, soar above the twin duplex and outdoor pools, flit across the bridge, to the semi-slums, to the crammed self-contained room without air conditioning or TV where she and Taiye used to live.

She sees, no, feels Taiye smiling at her, lifting her in his muscular arms twirling her in the yard while the kids watch and giggle. She breathes the scent of his freshly washed clothes, and subtle musk as it caresses her skin.

He calls her by name but it sounds different when he does, like a treasure– something he never wants to lose. Then they are sharing a drink on the 6-spring mattress on the floor, or playing ludo, or cuddling while he tells her his dreams.

Prince is done, he rolls over like a boulder and begins to snore.

She is still awake and she can’t forget the TV-less room, or the man with muscular arms. She wonders why she still wants more. Wasn’t money what she gave it all up for?

And in that lonely room, tears falls, and she knows she is poorer now, than when she was in the arms of the man that made her feel on top of the world.

To My Silent Reader

There you are,
Lifting my hopes with the sound of your footsteps,
Of course I am glad,
Where would I be without your visits
A preacher without a pew
A speaker without an audience
A soliloquy.

But pray,
Why never a word?
Not a sound.
No sign of what did or did not please you?
Is it shyness?
Then let’s burn it
Is it slyness?
Then let’s stop it,
Let our meetings be give and take
So your words
Would birth fresh founts of prose
Or poetry
Satire or commentary.

Pray my visiting stranger,
Speak to me.

Numbers

234 taken,
Swept off their beds to a den of demons

91 slain,
Felled as they studied to be better Nigerians,

50 bombed,
As they made their daily bread,

Thousands displaced, scared, hurt, wounded, broken,

Known by numbers
Not by name,
Not by their particular pain.

A scattering of dots on a statistician’s page,

No one listens,
No one fights their cause.

Yet the papers announce the numbers,
The dozens,
The thousands and
The scores,

Weeping like pus from our festering national sore.

Family Finance: Who Should Pay The Bills?

Last week I read a tweet asking if a man was meant to foot all the bills for the home when the lady is also working and earning an income. What would the lady do with her money if the guys spends his on the home, he asked. Wasn’t it unfair to expect one party to bear the entire burden of the bills? What about being a helper? Helping with the money aspect?

The tweet made me think about the role of money in marriage. Communication, sex and money are said to be the biggest issues marriage maintenance. And money is said to involved in over 70% of family riffs.

Different models for family finance have been proposed and used in modern homes. They include:

The Not-A-Dime school who believes a man should provide everything including matches, salt and safety-pins.

The 50-50 group that advocates for bill sharing and equal contributions.

The Keep-Your-Money group where the woman will fund the entire family expense with the man doing little or nothing.

The Man-Provides-I-Support group let’s the man take responsibility for large bills like rent, fees, feeding etc while chipping in to provide extras and to tide the family over if the man runs into a rough spot.

What is your preferred model? Which has worked for you or your parents, siblings etc.? Please share below.

The Way She Winds

He knew the guilt would last for weeks but he drove to her place anyway. Excitement flooded his veins and he smiled to himself. At last ,he was going to let it go, let the dragon out. Eight years ago he would never have imagined doing something so risque, so sinful. Eight years. Time had hurtled by, yet sometimes it felt like a fortnight. Even now he could remember every detail of the first time they met.

*

He was jogging down the road one Saturday morning. Diabetes ran in his family and he was doing his best to beat the odds. His entry level job at private firm kept him submerged in work all week but on weekends he could take a few deep breaths before going under again.

He rounded a bend and heard a woman scream. A young lady was being hassled by some boys. He ran up to them and they fled. The lady was lying prone on the side walk sobbing. Her ankle length jean skirt and long sleeved blouse quivered with each groan.

“Hey, it is okay. They are gone. You are safe now.”

She was new in the area, visiting her aunt during a brief break. Before the incident she was making her way home from prayers. Oscar liked that in a woman, a spiritual side, something more beyond just looks.

He liked other things too: her full lips, the gold flecks in her eyes, her ample curves and her laugh that warmed his insides faster than a cigar. They courted for a few weeks, got married, had a baby,then everything changed.

The doctors said it was a mild case of the blues–post natal depression– nothing to worry about. He watched as she shrunk into herself, refusing food and refusing him. With medication her appetite for food returned but her desire for him disappeared.

At first he thought nothing of the days of coaxing, begging and bribing it took to get her to sleep with him, but soon it became silly, then tiresome, then repulsive.

The worst part was that even when she agreed, the act was as warm as an iceberg. She would lie on her back as still as a corpse, staring at some unseen sight, miles away from him. Not involved. Uninterested.

He had hoped things would get better with time. Age was said to improve a woman’s libido. He hoped in vain. Last month, while he was making love to her, she slipped on her earphones and began hum. When he slipped out of her and stormed out of the bedroom, she didn’t call him back.

By making discrete enquiries he had found Oasis, a place where men like him could get succour. The first time he went there he was overcome with shame. He was a father for goodness sake. A respectable man. But even as he battled with himself, he knew he would be there again.

His phone rang and he frowned as he picked.

“Hello, Katrina”

“Hello Daddy”

“How are you?”

“Fine. Daddy where are you?”

” I am at work.”

“But Mum just called your office number and she was told you left an hour ago.”

“I had to get something to eat and drop somethings off at the bank. Why is your mom looking for me?”

“I don’t know. Daddy when are you coming home?”

“I don’t know honey. I still have a lot to do: reports to write, letters to reply…. I’ll try to be home as soon as I can. ”

“Promise?”

“Promise”

“Okay Daddy, see you soon. Bye”

“Bye dear”

Oscar groaned inside and dropped the call. What was with kids of these days anyway? Imagine his 7 year old daughter playing police with him. So, Maria was calling him at the office?! He took a deep breath and decided to put the phone call behind him when his phone rang again.

This time it was Yolanda.

“Hello Oscar, Oscar? Can you hear me?”

“Yolanda, what is it?”

“Where are you? I have been calling all your numbers and I even called your office. When are you coming home? The pipe in the bathroom came loose and the generator isn’t starting and Rambo is retching at the backyard.”

” So why are you calling me? I am an accountant, woman. Not an electrically endowed plumber-vet! Call Silas to come see the pipes, ask Ade to have a look at the generator and call Dr. Idris, his number is on the kennel. Give me a break for heaven’s sake.”

“Oh! So that’s all you have to say? After leaving home all day I call you in an emergency and that’s all you have to say? Oscar! –”

He dropped the call and switched his phone off bristling with the peculiar irritation of the sex-starved, work-stressed, guilt-rankled male and drove to Bimbo’s house.

The gate-man let him in and he drove past halo-shaped street lamps to a cottage styled BQ behind the large house. Bimbo was waiting for him at the door with a glass of chapman and ice.

“Hey sailor, what took you so long.”

“Lots of stuff. I am glad I made it.”

Bimbo smiled and led him to her boudoir. The lights were a dim lilac but he could make out the couch.

“Use the towel on the dresser. Press the button beside it when you are ready.”

Oscar did as he was told and lay face down on the padded couch. Soft instrumental music played from a central system and a pout pourri of soothing scents filled his lungs. He closed his eyes and imagined himself faraway, on a beach in Hawaii, surrounded by coconuts, palms and a bevy of bikini clad beauties.

Then he felt her fingers on his back. She was rubbing something cool and evanescent on his back followed by an aromatic oil that had traces of menthol.

She worked deftly, running her fingers up both sides of his spine. When she stroked, kneaded and stretched his muscles, he felt the week’s frustrations leaving him, rocks rolling down a cliff. When she began to tap and chop down his spine, he groaned in relief.

She was everywhere. Kneading , bending, tapping and chopping without a word.

” I want to use something new on you,” she said. “It is called The Dolphin. It will loosen your deep muscles and give you a longer lasting sense of relaxation. Would you like to try it?”

“Yes. Yes please.”

The Dolphin was a hand held deep massage device shaped like a leaping dolphin. The snout was replaced by a revolving ball that vibrated when placed on skin. Bimbo guided the snout over his arms and back avoiding the joints.

Then she let her lips continue from where The Dolphin stopped. She lay on him, her body warmth enveloping him. Then she flipped him over and straddled him. As he watched her wind on him with so much passion something erupted in him and he wasn’t in control anymore. He was like a starving man at a buffet. Taking more and more still trying to have everything. When it was over, he couldn’t stand.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“You are welcome. You look like you could use some rest. Take your time. If you doze off, I’ll wake you in thirty.”

“You are an angel.”

“I know,” Bimbo said as she sashayed away.

To Syria, For Love

When the wave of travellers banked on the shuttle bus, Victoria was at its fringe. Swamped with luggage in both arms, a backpack and a handbag, she barely made it on board before the doors slid shut. Panic hit her as she noticed there was just standing room, how was she going to survive the 10 minute drive to the arrival hall? Toggling on her wedges and balancing a cache of bags?

She made her way to the rear of the bus. Luckier passengers had their arms slung into overhead arm-rests for support. The 10 odds seats were for the lightening footed or the old or the infirm. Everyone else stood. Victoria had a feeling this only happened in Nigeria. But she couldn’t be sure….

Looking round she caught a glimpse of a spot at the rear shelf. Taking care not to tumble over her 6 inch high shoes, she managed to get to the rear shelf in one piece. Taking a deep breath, she lifted the larger box to the shelf. Mid-way, she felt the box leave her hands and watched it hoisted to the spot by a pair of sun-tanned hands.

“E dey ok abi?”

Victoria frowned and blinked. It was uncommon for immigrant Caucasians to be courteous to strange Nigerian women. But wait, was that Pidgin English he spoke?

“E dey ok…. Wait. Who teach you Pidgin?”

He chuckled, a low, full-throated sexy sound that spoke of humour, depth.
“I don tay here o. You shock abi?”

Victoria chuckled with him. “No be only shock, I weak join. You try sha, you try, well, well, which work you dey do? Construction abi? Make I guess, Shell Port Harcourt.”

“Yes, na construction but no be Port Harcourt. I don travel go many places. Uyo, Yenogoa, Ondo, Bonny….”

“Wow. Oh boy! You don trip no be small. So where are you going?”

“To Syria, to join the army.”

Vicky flinched. “Oh no.”
She reached for words but couldn’t find the right ones to use. She felt like she was rope walking. What does one say to a man going home to fight a war? She looked at him then and their eyes met. Vicky realised she didn’t want him to go. Wars were senseless things. They had no respect for funny, warm, culturally tolerant gifted engineers. They preyed on pain. They took everything beautiful and precious and turned them into statistics for CNN. She felt tears rising in her chest. Madness, she didn’t know this man.

“Your family. Do you hear from them?”

“Yes.”

“Pele.”

“Thank you,” he replied looking over her generous curves with open interest.

“Ouch. You must bring them out. To Lagos or Port Harcourt until things get better… The carnage is mind boggling. I can’t even think of what you have been through, my thoughts and prayers are with you, with your people.”

“Thank you. My thoughts are with you too. Are you married?”

To be continued

Incidental Martyr

We had been home for months. Our lecturer’s were on strike over un-kept promises. Our leader’s didn’t care. We were the collateral damage in a war of words.

You had an idea. “Let’s do a peaceful protest,” you said. We all laughed. Okey replied “Where? You wan die?”
Musa sneered. “Count me out man.”

Days later, hundreds of young Nigerians protested against Internet censorship and Human’s right abuse. We watched in silence. When you spoke about protests the next time, we listened.

We hit the streets early. In white and black, like so many chess pawns, we marched. At government house, the deputy governor wouldn’t see us. Soon there were shots in the air and the sting of tear gas has us blinded. We run in a thousand directions.

We don’t wait to see you taken away. We don’t notice as the police man puts a bullet through your legs.

The next month, school reopens. We resume class, jokes and partying. We remember you when we see your obituary posters, pasted by the school gate.

*
*
*
Thank you for reading.

God bless you.

The Making Of A Writer

Some began to write in their teens. Some began in primary school.
Some began to write at four.
Some began in their diapers.

You read these things and fear fills your heart. Older than thirty, you are considered a middle aged writer. If you had a british passport, at least you would have the Granta 40 under 40 to dream off. Now it is just a void, a chasm of missed opportunity and a glyph of wasted youth. A tragedy of ignorance, science-subject-fixation, and the buying of lies: You must be a doctor. Best grades guarantee a good life. Writers are hungry. Nigerians don’t read. Who reads Africans?

Then, you hear a whisper: soft but sure, solemn but loving, coming from somewhere below your right ear.

It says:

You aren’t a middle aged writer. You aren’t a writer when the world says you are one.

You were a writer before you were born.

When God foreknew you, thought of you,

When you awaited a family in His Mind,

You were a writer.

He designed you for your purpose with the care and skill of the Ultimate Precision Engineer.

He placed you in that home where books were loved, honoured– nay– worshipped on purpose.

He placed the library on your daily walk to school’s route. (Made sure they still had books in them at the time) for a reason.

He put Aesop’s fables, Nurudeen’s adventures and dozen’s of Enid Blyton books in your hands because your destiny needed them.

He gave you Law lecturers as parents. You spent weekends reading the Nigerian Constitution and Law Gazette’s aloud while Dad nodded and corrected your pronunciation. You spent weekdays perfecting spellings while Mom stirred her pot of Atama soup and passed you bits of dry fish, because that was the childhood you needed for your calling.

You had magnets in your hands and books were drawn to you all the time: Pacesetters, Onitsha Market Literature, Babylonian History,My Book of Bible Stories, A Good Sex Guide, and so many Agatha Christie whodunits .

You skipped from school to dorm saying your poems, your rhymes and you made up songs. The songs outlived your brief six year stay there. Your book of poems, wasn’t so lucky.

Even as a science student, you tried to study Geography. After a single class and you ran to Literature where you belonged. There you outshone the art students without meaning to, like a fish that found a stream.

“I’ll make you Minister Of Literature when I am President” your bosom friend said and both of you giggled into packets of Okin biscuit and diluted Ribena ‘juice’ concentrate.
Such dreams weren’t SSCE compatible.

You joined the Press Club, the Wazobia Club, The Drama Club, The Debate Club too. You days were full of words, themes and expression– a rainbow from literary heaven.

*
*
*
To be continued.
*

Thank you

God Bless You!

My Naughty Wedding Ring

My wedding ring slipped off my fingers crossed the street and fell into your pocket

You didn’t know.
So you kept going.
That is what I told myself.

Months passed,

7 ways to live without a ring.

Who needs a rings when you have my heart?

Weddings aren’t rings–

Some books I wrote.
Some lies I told.

One day
You stopped to say hi.
And my wedding ring
Rolled back out of your pocket.

Maybe it was your missing teeth
Or your gutter breath that buoyed it.

I picked it up
Put it on
And acted like
Nothing happened.

He’s Got You

When the world is falling on your head,

your belly is empty and your account red,

when nothing makes sense,

when friend is foe,
and come means go,

when every hour brings another horror,

when white is right and black is a bullet,

when kids are chained and thieves are free,

when vanity is lauded and truth defrauded
Filth applauded,

When your strength is gone,
your body torn,

your hopes and dreams
in slow burn,

When what you want
doesn’t want you,
and
who you love won’t love you,

when you have no money
and places to go,

When life is all this and more,
Close your eyes,
take a deep breath
and know,

He is with you,

He has gone ahead of you,

He will keep and protect you,

today
tomorrow
and evermore

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Say Their Names: For The 81 Slain in Benue

Numbers: that is what we get, impersonal statistics,
dehumanised,
anaesthetised,
and displayed.

Helpless: is now we feel
unable to grasp the cruelty
fathom the horror or
comprehend the pain.

Nameless : is what they make you
unwilling and unable to say your names.

Were you Moses not Musa?
Ojochegbe, Mawedo, Adebomi
Terwase,  Dooshima, Idibia?

Were you babies, giggling in the sand
Fathers hoisting the beams of a home
Young maidens giddy with dreams?
Grey haired elders brave in the face of death?

We may never know

But we weep for you
ache for you
Remember you
Though they will not say your names.

Hangman’s Dream 3: The Morning After

My mouth tasted like a pit toilet.  I was in a small green room and tubes filled with fluid were strapped to both arms. Power failed and I found the darkness comforting.

Where was I? And how did I get here?

Power returned and in the distance, a chorus of kids screamed, “NEPA!”

It was funny how our government kept changing the name of the national power authority while the epileptic services remained the same. Or got worse.

The door cracked open and someone shone a phone torch on me.
“You are awake,” he said, easing himself into the room.

His name was Tayo, he was a nurse and I was in Top Vine Medical Centre. I had been brought in unconscious about six hours ago and my blood sugar had been critically low. Further tests were being run to find out if there was anything more sinister going on. His orders were to check on me and find out what I wanted to eat.

In spite of myself I smiled.
“Two boiled eggs, Coconut rice, baked beans, fish pepper soup, fried plantain, steamed vegetables and fruit salad.”

He was silent for a while, “anything else?”

“A bottle of Coke. Ice cold.”

The lights came on just in time for me to see him slap his jotter shut and strut out of the room.

I spent three days in the clinic and I gained as many pounds. I was treated to a continental breakfast, a traditional lunch and a gourmet dinner.

I wasn’t let out of my room though and I wasn’t given my phone.

On the fourth day, I decided to try some light exercise.

Bad idea.

My arms were sore and slightly swollen. I howled in pain before crumbling into a heap on the tiled floor.

“Easy. You don’t want to do permanent damage to yourself, do you?”

I cringed.  It was Suto the witch.
With as much dignity as I could feign I stood up and faced her.

“Ah. We are quiet now. Quiet is good. I like quiet. Especially if it is intelligent, loyal and obedient. Do you think you could do that? Be obedient? Of course you can. Anyone can be anything if the price is right.”

She sat on my bed brought out a flask from her bag reached for glasses on the fridge and poured me a drink.
I took it from her and stared into the cup. 
She poured herself a cup then burst out laughing.

“Red wine from Italy. Drink up. You are hired. And guess what? Not as a driver anymore. You are going to be … my personal assistant. ”
Her phone rang and she switched it off without checking who called.

“Oh, by the way, I brought your things.”

She reached into her bag  and produced the things: my phone, keys and an empty wallet.

I heaved an inner sigh of relief until she dug further into the bag and dragged out a coil of brown rope.

“What is this?”
“Spare rope for emergencies,” I said, without blinking.

“Hmm, for a minute I thought you were planning to hang someone.
Get ready.  You are leaving in five minutes for the staff quarters.”

She drained her cup, grabbed her bag and sashayed out while I grabbed the rope and broke into cold sweat.

Miracles of Matter

Matter may not be created or destroyed
             usually,
but it can be changed
                      burned
          transported
     buried in black holes,
it can metamorphose
          transpose
       transform
and reform
Leaf can become caterpillar
Caterpillar, butterfly
Spider, tadpole
Tadpole, toad
Toad, fly.

Matter may not be created or destroyed
but it can do anything in between.

Hearts and Flowers: by Zainab A. Omaki

AFREADA

Seni cut out her heart, intending to give it to someone worthy, but accidentally flushed it down the toilet. She watched it swirl and swirl, thinking she could reach in, pluck it out, and dry it off with a towel. Instead it disappeared down the hole with a rather definitive whoosh and she was left staring into the white bowl at still toilet water.

She left the bathroom numb, went into the kitchen and sat on the counter. Her friend, Idara, whom she lived with stood at the stove frying eggs while singing along to the music playing on her phone.

“I lost my heart,” she told her Idara.

Her friend didn’t hear her. She kept dancing and singing along.

“I lost my heart,” she said louder. This time Idara heard. She stopped moving, put off her music and turned around.

“You did what?”

“Lost my heart.”

“Where?”

“Toilet.”

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The Hangman’s Dream 2

I smelt him before I saw him. His cologne naseated me; undertones of musk,mint, masculinity and power. I disliked this man I didn’t know.
Hon Sam appeared, surrounded by a retinue of staff. He gave me a warm smile, a firm handshake and a thump on the back, the ill feelings and the nausea began to wane.

“Young man what is your name?”
“Henshaw, sir.”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty, sir”
“Married?”
“No Sir.”
“Good.”

He flicked his wrist and a tall dark lady appeared.
“Suto, go over his credentials and complete the rest of his paperwork.” Hon Sam said.

“Yes sir.” She said.

“Young man welcome to my empire. I am Honorable Samuel Matthew Elebeniada, but you can call me Chief. I hope you will enjoy working with us. Suto will complete your documentation. Any questions?”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Good. See you tomorrow.”

Chief left and Suto turned to me.
“This way.”

I followed her to a large office in an adjoining duplex. As soon as we walked in, she flung off her heels and removed her jacket. The sleeveless blue mini gown she wore hugged her ample curves and flattered her long legs. I looked away. If this was meant to be a pre-employment test, I wasn’t failing.

“Take off your jacket.”

I froze. Alex told me I was going to be a driver. I was desperate for a job, any job, but this wasn’t what I had in mind.

Suto walked over to the window and surveyed the grounds. I couldn’t tell what she was looking for. Was she gauging how safe this was? Or just waiting for me to undress?

Underneath my desperation I bristled with anger and wounded pride. Who was this woman and why did she think she could command me?

My landlord’s face flickered past my mind and my mom’s aging form and the cockroach ridden shelves in my kitchen. My fingers found the top button of my jacket but I paused.

“What are you waiting for?” She asked. There was a steely edge in her voice. I knew she wouldn’t ask again. I took off the jacket and unconsciously began to grind my teeth.

“What is that sound?”
“Nothing”
“Good. Turn around.”

Bile filled my mouth as I obeyed.  I had aborted a hanging but this wasn’t my idea of life.

“Give me 20.”

This time I couldn’t help myself. I laughed; long and loud.

Suto walked up to me till she was just inches away. I stopped and looked away. She grabbed my chin and forced me to face her.

“I think we started out on the wrong foot here. I am Chief’s administrator, his mistress and his personal advisor.  I run this entire place, all his companies and all his financial dealings. I decide if you get employed. I decide if you make it out of here in one piece. I decide if you will enjoy working here or find yourself in hell on earth. When I give you an order you obey. Now get down and don’t stop till I tell you to.”

I wanted to  turn around and stormed out of the office. I wanted to slap her powdered cheeks and  make tears run through her fake lashes. Instead I got down and did the pushups, while I travelled in my mind.

I was faraway on an sunny island. Breeze kissed my face,birds sang over head, two beautiful women were embracing me. One massaged my back while the other fed me dates. I was loving it all but then darkness washed over everything as I blacked out.