The Waking Hour

 

Loneliness greets you with its morning breath,
Limbers your arms,
And feathers kisses over your face,

You’re awake.
Bathing your indecisions and brushing lies

From the gaps between your teeth,
The ones that keep you awake till 3am,
Fueling the confidence that doesn’t come easy.

You’re quiet.
Silently praying that something would change,
And lift the veil of sadness that adorns you-
This way, you attract nothing.

Now, you’re happy.
Dressed for an occasion no one will attend,
You delight in finding fragments of yourself,
In a story that is not your own,
And the one who loves you-
In everything that love is supposed to mean,

So you’re happy.
Until you’re by yourself,
And loneliness,

Who has watched over you so faithfully
Prays with you
Tucks you into bed and with another kiss
Keeps you awake till 3am.

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O-B-I-A-M-A-K-A

Today, I found myself remembering how I learnt to spell my name and  I don’t know why. It was a Sunday, I remember because we had rice and stew -my fingers were still turkey flavoured because I sucked on my fore-finger when I wasn’t sure of the number of A’s in my name. When my Father laughed, I buried my face in a pillow and groaned in annoyance. I remember the pillow, it smelled like Old Spice, matching my father’s sweat after his morning shower when there’s no light. I was on my parents’ bed and they were both enjoying the entertainment that was me spelling my name in caps because I tried to hide my ugly scrawl of a hand-writing. I remember it was all-caps because I wrote from one end of the envelope to the other. I remember it was an envelope because my father double checked to be sure it wasn’t one of those destined for his epistles to people who cared to read them. Laughter too, I laughed a lot because my mother was laughing. I remember all these things but the moment when I finally spelled my name. It appears my success wasn’t quite as thrilling as the journey that got me there. O-B-I-A-M-A-K-A , Obiamaka, it means, your heart is beautiful.

I’ve always loved my name.

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From the Sidelines

 

Photo: Shirren Lim

Photo: Shirren Lim

 

Leave your lover, lover.
Don’t ask me to  breathe

because this love is morning and

I’m awake in my decisions,
catching summer after a cold night
a night we stayed close,
chasing skin,
worshiping the idols
we created in our names…
Leave your lover
reconnect the steps
and incline your heart to new reasoning,
Stealing kisses no more,
hearts high,
fingers tracing,
I am the one who requests it,
branding myself ,

with the insignia of impatience,
I’m the one latching on to you.
For everything.

Winning

Today was going to be different I  needed a win. Yesterday I stood in the rain for hours and crawled to a dark home at night but today… today I woke up with the fan spinning ceaselessly above me and the hum of the refrigerator singing me a tune for cold water. so I smiled my first true sign of success.

I love to play pool; night, morning and noon. I picked up my phone and played. Lost three rounds at a go – it was time to leave for work. The minute my feet touched the ground the fan stopped spinning, the hum ceased. I prepared myself to re-live yesterday. a yesterday where I didn’t win. As my key turned on the lock, the rain began. Again

Remember

So this is what looking back feels like,
wondering if home is still a kiss
-an embrace,
because you’ve forgotten how to count blessings,
how to shelf them  for days when you need reminding,
but today is different
today you need a welcoming,
something stained in chocolate,
bristled in aftershave
that feels like forever until it isn’t,
until they’re sketches of a dream.
So this is what looking back is,
the wood beneath your fingers,
kissing roses,
weeping on graves,
and promising to never ever forget.

 

 

 

For the Loved

Beloved,
forever is a moonstruck notion in the wake of dawn,
 a sentiment after dinner and flowers and gifts,love-passion-kiss-shadow-photo-70160
my heart kisses the idea that
when my self and soul are fading
you’ll be here,
cradling each one like diamonds pawned off to God.
Heart,
remember there’s only been you coming or going,
in the fashion of a bird’s flight or cupid’s bows,
my sole infatuation at valentine,
or any other day
when we are dancing with candles and roses after passion.

After Heart.

From the moment. I stepped on the street, my heart started to beat a little faster. I knew where I was going,I had been there before. After several steps, I realized the taste in my mouth was back. Since I was told of Gwen’s death, the proverbial bitter taste has stuck with me. I remember this road all too well. Now if I could stop sweating and just breathe, I’ll get there sooner… breathe obii, breathe -but I’m just not ready.

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The black gate seems heavier then usual as I push to walk in. Vanessa is sitting right in front and she recognizes me. “you’re her friend from RUN” it’s more of a statement than a question,the way she says it. Vanessa… I squeeze her shoulder… How are you doing?

 

“I’m okay, I’m okay. come- wow, thanks for coming”, what?

I shake my head refusing to accept what she is giving.

“Come, my Dad is here…”

We walk to a group of men and I finally meet him, the man I spoke to mostly during my first year and during my graduation. He had a small smile for me. I touched his leg and went on my knees.

“Daddy I’m so sorry”

He holds my hand, “you have to accept God’s will. It’s God’s will”.  The statement does not burn as much has how he says it. Gwen’s dad has accepted God’s will… but I can’t I? Why won’t I?

Just take heart, he says again… It is God’s will.

I look into his eyes and think I am finally going to cry… This is it. However, it doesn’t happen.

Come sign the register. Her sister calls to me, so I get off my knees and Gwen’s headshot is staring at me in a Queen’s College uniform. Full regalia like the day we did back-to-school in year one. I remember the picture we took together and almost lose it.

Obii breathe… So I open my mouth again, my nose is not as keen. I sign the register and leave no comment.

There’s just a handful of people when we walk inside. Vanessa is talking to me but i hear nothing, my ears are ringing. We climb the stairs. Gwen’s mom is sitting in the midst of some women. I greet all of them, again I kneel. I am holding her hand but she is squeezing mine, so I squeeze back because I need to, because i understand.

“Mummy take heart… I-”

“Ah my dear… I’m tired of crying, I’ve been crying from day one” i know she means it because her voice is hoarse, Gwen-has-a-cold hoarse.

“How did you hear? Vanessa says to me.

I got in from Yenagoa on Sunday and Hyelni called me.  I let them wonder who Hyelni is.

She started to speak again.. “Sit, sit” -just like Gwen. The same husky tone, the same fragility -might as well have been. Okay, now i would cry. But i didn’t – i couldn’t. not when everyone is calm and accepting.

I find my voice “So it happened on Sunday?”

“Since the 1st” they both respond.

She goes on to tell me how Gwen celebrated her birthday with a lot of people and still struggled with recovery but couldn’t make it through, she was in so much pain. she asked to go.

I almost lose it when she tells me Gwen asked for me. She wanted to ping me. i tell am which hand you wan use?

From the corner of my eye, i notice Suzanna and i go to her.

“Sister Suzy, how are you healing?”

“I’m fine she says, thank God it’s just my legs. God knows why it all happened this way but thank you for coming. Thank you.” I shake my head vigorously and look away.

If everyone in this family could stop thanking me, I just might survive this evening. Can’t they see I didn’t do anything? i wasn’t there.

“I’m here on behalf of my friends, Mummy told me about the arrangements, so I’ll be back here on Thursday and Friday.

“oh really thank you so- i wasn’t listening, i was walking away. not another thank you. ridiculous

Ii go to Mummy and hold her hands again, i have to go now

but you’ll call me abi?

I will. I already took her number from Suzanna.

I walk away from the house a little more than numb. When i get home, i think there is a look on my face because my sister asks, what’s wrong, is it your back?

 

“i went to Gwen’s… ” a tear rolls down. i walk into my room, sit on my bed and the damn breaks free. For 20mins i keep at it, gasping and breathing hard. I cry for Gwen and how she suffered. my sister comes in and comforts me, she wipes tears off and tells me to stop crying , it’ll be okay. “she asked for me”, i tell her. she rubs my back in response.

I cry for her parents and how they accepted God’s will, how they’re healing and hurting, I cry for myself- finally. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there” I whisper… and the tears stop.

“doubt”

The day i died

They said i should have walked on water

the land was infertile and faith was trying

but it was a year of possibilities

and some “Jesus” did it.

I had no time for stories

and zero interest in testing the impossible

“Jesus!” they exclaimed when i told them so

just before I died

Mind Over Matter: Regret

I took my love to the back alleys of V.I.

legs  The front lanes of Allen

Island beaches

And many more buried places

I read that a man found God in a woman’s thighs

So I played temple and set the tone and waited

For God to show up,

for him to find me too-, maybe

Played temple till the house that built me became broken

Broken pieces of memories and hard realities

Realities I ignored I prayed with my thighs open

Open Eyes open

And the pounding is louder than the screams of my conscience

-wait, stop, stop

Stop.

Pleas in my head

Pleas I won’t heed

I must find God

I must find him in my very own thighs

Everybody knew what I didn’t know

Nobody told me what I didn’t know

 God. wasn’t. missing

Mind Over Matter: AGE

domino if you let them, they’ll pull the rug from under you

and not apologise

and  say they did it for you

because he’s too young  plus you can love someone else

someone wiser and by wiser they mean older.

as if the two had much in common

they’ll take your love away and wish you well

if you let them, they’ll put you in a room labelled, “confused”

and keep the key for themselves

and say this is how you must grow

by rules laid out for you, talents peeping through a keyhole

until your age can match your shoe size not before

as if the two had much in common

they’ll crush your  will and say you must earn your seat at the table

if you let them,  they’ll keep the shade above your eyes

and lead you away from your dreams

and stop you because it’s unheard

no one talks of such things, no one speaks this way

imagination must be with the rules

as if the two had much in common

they’ll watch you grow old without your fire and  say you should’ve done it anyway