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.

Midnight Snack

The plates were washed. The kitchen floor scrubbed. The dish clothes laundered. Still, a basket of fruit waited to be washed and refrigerated on the kitchen table. The chrome wall clock beeped, 12:00am. Agnes wiped her soaked forehead and collapsed on a stool. It had been a long, long day. She was hungry, exhausted and irritated by the aroma of chicken casserole that lingered in the kitchen mocking the plain garri and salt her mistress had left her for supper.

Sometimes she wondered how someone as rich as Madam Kenjo could be mean about simple things like food. Where she came from people were generous with food and embarrassed to give anything less than their best.

If it wasn’t for the money she would have left months ago. Madam was stingy with food and demanding but at least she paid her staff promptly. Unlike the last woman she worked
with, she had left without four months wages, now the woman wouldn’t answer her phone calls….

Grinding her teeth she pulled her self up and began to wash the fruits. A little black speck on one garden egg caught her eye. Frowning she pried it open to find a wriggly maggot, five more tries yielded the same results. Even the juicy looking ones had worms in them.

“Agnes! Get me some garden eggs and groundnut sauce,” Madam yelled from the dining.

She wanted to tell Madam about the worms and offer her something else instead, but as her eye caught the bowl of garri, she wavered. Then with a shrug she set the tray and took it out to her waiting mistress.

The harder part was stifling her laughter as she watched madam nodding with her eyes closed as she munched the garden eggs, savoring her midnight snack.

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.