Who Are We?

What are we?
Black or brown?
African or American,
African-American,
or American-African?

Are we our skin or our brains,
our hearts or our legs,
our pain or our faith,
our past or our future?

Are we the mistakes that we made,
or the amends we desperately work towards?

Are we what they say we are?

Or what they say we are?

Who are we?

The Help?
The Magician, The Wretched?
The Negro, The Nigger, The Afro?
The problem or the solutions,
Our passions or our addictions?

Who are we?

We need to know.

 

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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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Body Parts

For the school kids slaughtered at Mubi

We tiptoe round the blackened hole

that was our assembly ground

A heart that was full of love is an urn of ash,

A mouth once filled with laughter is full of blood,

Fingers taught to write lie as still as stones,

Stubs of futures murdered,

fingernail and bone,

We can’t find eyes.

They have been stolen, neutered, carved up, swallowed whole,

Ants in the ant lion’s pit
Flies in a spider’s web
Firewood in a war, that was not their own.

* * * * *

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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.

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