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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Two Laborers

Sun, the laborers' eternal enemy. It shone like it was having its last outing, letting loose on us its sweltering intensity like there was something at stake, perhaps a big Lord was wielding a stick beside it, daring it not to shine.

Our brown skins were tanned coal and trails of sweat slinked down our backs and disappeared beneath the bands of dirty boxers. We paused to catch our breath. Chukwudi's stomach growled like a famished lioness robbed of her cubs. He leaned on the truck to steady himself. His ulcer was acting up again.

"We could have some bread and share a bottle of coke," I said in ibo, in my bid to sympatise. "Since we haven't much to jingle in the pocket. These would do."

He said nothing. His eyes were shut meditatively and he gave off birdy whistles, knitting his brows in pain,in thoughts .

He was thinking of the contractor at the construction site where we worked,the fat bully and his demeaning,empty threats; He was thinking of our brash singing while our backs were bent to the rhythm of work.

He was thinking of his OND certificate, neatly lying in a brown envelope under the worn mattress we shared.

He was thinking of Mama, miles away and how fast her cough was wilting her away to nothingness.

Afar off was the lady of the mobile restaurant, Mama Olaedo, wheeling her truck which, unlike ours, was laden with delicacies that made our mouths water. I tried to wave at her, giving my most servile smile but my hands stilled in the air as she swiveled her wares to the opposite direction.
Mehn, nobody is smiling today o, I thought. Not Mama Olaedo who often gave us free food because she said I shared a resemblance with her last son. And not even the Sun.

(Image courtesy Phaneross Photography)

Monday, September 23, 2013

And I Gave Me For A Song

Tonight I lay awake doing battle with an aching heart
I am a sand castle battered by the storms and all my sides are coming off, unglued.
My heart, chiseled out of shape by pain.

Time and its magical prowess,
Turned a cocksure prince to a mullish bigot.
I beheld you in that moment of shallow-mindedness and thought to me,
This is good stuff.
And I, an eager-beaver
Squirmed all night
In my skirt for your touch.

But morning came, sure as dawn and you rolled over, feigning your snores.
You feigned, you feigned, lying too stiffly to be asleep. I speak to you softly but your reply came off like one whose caught hair between his teeth.
Your carefully picked words neutered my resolve to love you.

And I knew,
Like I always do,
That I just gave me for a song.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is giving.
Love is sharing.

But it isn't love when it always comes with a shove.
It isn't love when my heart wears to shreds in your hands.
It isn't love when it comes at the expense of my dignity.
It isn't love when all you seek are your own ways.
It isn't love when our moments of euphoria come only at the exchange of bodily fluids.

Love me when my body is wrung of its juices and the fingers are too weak to reach and touch.
Love me when I fail to see your view and your own shoes feel too itchy for my feet.

Let there be euphoria in a hug, in a walk, in a kiss as light as feather, when you lay me down and I sleep like a child, sated at its mother's breast.
Let there be love in your acts of kindness - in the opening of doors, the pulling out of chairs, in that gentle inquiry, "what would you rather have?"

Love is the contended look in your eyes after moments of talk with me. Love is the misting over of my eyes, an apt response as I watch the rise and fall of your chest as you sleep, and I know that only I hold privy to your solitary moments.

Love is when you speak to me thus
Hold me thus
Treat thus
And it feels right
And I feel wanted.

Love comes in gentle strides, not in the quick dashes of sprinters; it is when I sit at your river banks and I dally my feet in your waters, without drowning myself in you. Love is in deep breathings of the aged, and not just in the pantings of exhausted lovers.

Love is staking my life on this truth, that the hands that hold me tonight would be there tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Fire Past Putting Out

This walk you make towards me, towards our bedstead reminds me of that moment, years ago, when I first saw you across that busy street, jutting out like a rock in sea, alone and august, unruffled by the chaos around you.

You walked towards me then, you walk towards me now, exciting a flurry of activities. Papers swirl in the wind, curtains bellow with pride, beasts leave the lairs to watch, eagles fly from their aeries to peep.

The years have crawled past and I still burn for you. I burn for you, I burn for you, a fire past putting out.

Tonight I bestir my love for you. Let your warmth spread a covering over me. Let me love you without skimping and those you have loved in the past shall not touch me at it.

For I love you....and tonight, I will not keep it quiet.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

While ASUU Dilly-Dallies

While ASUU dilly-dallies
Making demands that make our eyes
Pop like corn

And FG shilly-shallies
Dragging her feet like a coy mistress

Let's boogie-woogie

Friday, August 9, 2013

When Power Goes Out

In the place where I grew up, power is like salt. When it rains she melts. After each thunderstorm, we knew that, just like a petulant girlfriend, she must have packed her bags and journeyed and wouldn't be returning for weeks, leaving us in darkness.

Mummy would send Junior and I to go and buy blocks of ice from the factory in Azikiwe Road to keep the food in the freezer cold. One day at the factory, I placed money on the table of the woman who sold ice. She counted it and tossed the money back at me.

"You did not read the announcement at the gate?" She asked.
"Which announcement?"
"Oh,small girl like you is asking me cross-question, ehn?"
I looked at her angry face. She would have been beautiful if she wasn't chewing gum like she was and if she hadn't shaved off her eyebrows and drawn eye pencil as if with a ruler.

I and Junior got to the gate and read the paper glued to it:


We walked back home and told mummy. Mummy wasn't happy.
"Ah ah," she said. "Very soon they will start charging the head of John The Baptist for just a block of ice. May God save us in this country."

There were a plethora of other unhappy circumstances that arrived in the wake of power's long sojourn in her new boyfriend's place: no Tom and Jerry by 4pm after school; no Super Story by 8pm on thursdays. We wouldn't be able to turn our morning tea to ice-cream and Uncle Uwadiegwu would put on his blue catapult generator and play loud Celine Dion songs when his annoying fiancee came visiting, suffering the ears of everyone in the yard.

I remember a time he had turned off his generator and everyone shouted, "Thank God!". He got angry and rushed to the filling-station to get more litres of petrol and he left it on for so long....

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Trust calls aloud in the streets
She raises her voice in the public squares:

"Don't you get it?
No man can earn me
I speak from the stance of one
Who has come to see man
For what he really is:


I am a gift to be given
Not a prize to be won."

Monday, August 5, 2013

Men From Amongst Us

They are not aliens from Neptune
Neither are they strange guests from Mars
I know the woman
Who bore the man
Whose rear end
seats in power

Was my neighbour
Whose little daughter
Shared a stick of biscuit
With my little brother

Time and chance happened to him
He woke and found himself in power
But the decietfulness of riches
Left a good man salivating
Rapacious like an open grave

They are from among us
Good daddies that bought their kids ice-cream
That sang them lullabies
That took them to the movies

But time and chance happened to him
He woke one day and found himself in power
And the decietfulness of riches
Left a good man salivating
Rapacious like an open grave.

Image source:alams-cartoon.jpg

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dear John

Dear John,

She likes her breakfast warm: oats or cereal with three slices of wheat bread. For oats, she likes it salted, and for cereal, she likes to have it with a lot of evaporated milk.

You are the kind of man that would serve a woman breakfast in bed, I presume. I was not. I am not. And I do not foresee me becoming one. For this cause and a multitude more she left. This was the bane of our love affair, the reason for all the acrimony our union suffered: my person was just not wired with such romantic tendons.

Send roses to her work place and if you want to be a little extravagant, toss in bars of chocolate. I did this once or twice when that hurt look crept into her eyes; when her responses to my "Good mornings" were just a muffled "mmmhn"; when she would whimper so long in her sleep for no reason at all; when I knew her heart was drifting from me.

The roses I sent did no good in our case however, and I love to liken the belated gesture to placing a bunch of red flowers on the tomb of someone you love. They loved you once but they are gone, far gone to lift the roses to their nostrils, to smile as they smell the scents.

Now that her eyes shine and dance with desire for you, now she has walled you up in the innermost parts of her heart, it is wise you maximise the moment. I have spent residency in her heart, and I know its labyrithine routes. But at some time, my life got hectic. I felt our affair had grown to maturity and that we could overlook each others vagaries. Sadly, I lost my map and groped like a child who has lost its mother at the marketplace.

I bumped into her at the bar a fortnight ago. She sat at a table for two, glowing under the red light. You were using the rest room, she said and I was glad I was beered up enough to face her and she was in such a good mood to face her pestilencial burden. Thankfully she held back the venom in her tongue custom made for me, but the way she stared at me could curdle milk; a man in coma could have awoken by the tension between us.

But she looked good, I must confess. No longer beleaguered by her catalogue of woes. I am surprised she found the time to smear on make-up. You must be doing a good job, fella.

How do you find her nightly need to chit-chat before sleep? How do you find her snoring? In the heydays of our affair, it sounded like a sweet symphony until the fire flies died in my eyes and it became the blaring of an elephant's trumpet. How do you find her watery egusi soup? Has she taken your name to Pastor for divine confirmation?

Call me when she bores you.
I will write you again.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Crush For An Aunty

Whenever Aunty Chi-Chi cooked, everyone in our yard would salivate. The married women would grumble -I have often heard mummy say whenever she heard the sound of something frying in Aunty Chi-Chi's kitchen,"Must she cook everyday?" before letting out a loud hiss. The married men would sit outside, jaw in hand and daydream of pitching tent until their wives called them in to serve them their routine dinner.

One day I asked Glory,my nanny, "Why does Aunty Chi-Chi's food smell so good?"

"Because she is looking for husband" she replied with a hiss. Then she added, "She would not even mind snatching another person's own. I bet her food will not smell so nice when she gets married."

Everyone said Aunty Chi-Chi was a bad woman but I saw no evil in her. She held my mind in bewilderment. When she walked by, her backside rolled like drums of joy. Bright rouge was always printed on her supple lips. Even her dustbin held a scenty mystery,and when Glory dozed off like she always does,with her big mouth dripping saliva, I would sneak out and join the other children in the yard to poke at her bin which never ran out of supply of strange balloons, empty perfume bottles and empty roll-on containers which we would smear in our armpit. Glory found out one day when I had sneaked back into the house smelling funny, and she made mummy beat me without mercy.

Aunty Chi-Chi did her laundry every saturday morning. Whenever I saw her outside, I would grab the plastic chair daddy bought me and race downstairs to sit beside her. I would watch her wash, wondering what magic prevented her acrylic nails from melting in the sudsy water. There was style to everything she did -even in the way she scratched her hair, tapping her head lightly and closing her eyes dreamingly. I could watch this woman forever.

One day, it rained all day. Glory had gone to visit her parents and mummy had placed a curfew on Junior and I,fearing the weather would make us catch cold. We yearned after the wet world outside, looking at it through the window in the living room; someone had left his clothes outside and some lay limp on the clothes line, some sodden on the ground. This was the day I had planned to teach junior how to torment earthworms and it was sad watching it pass by. From the living room, I could hear mummy's stertorous breathing. Junior looked at me, our eyes met. He was wearing his slippers on the wrong feet but that was not my problem at the moment. In an instant, we were tiptoeing down the stairs, careful not to touch the squeaky railings. The pockets of my jean skirt weighed down with a nylon bag of salt. We sprinted when we got to the end of the stairs and stopped when we came under the awning above Aunty Chi-Chi's window, standing there a little while to still our hammering heart before the expedition.

I found a slab of plastic and began digging with Junior squatting beside me. We saw an earthworm lying unsuspectingly.

"Take," I took out the nylon bag and handed to Junior. "Sprinkle salt on it." He did and we watched the worm wriggle and flip its tail in saline pain. Junior was in glee and I felt like the wise one from the east; I always enjoyed filling his four year old life with tricks. Yesterday, I had thought how to take hot food in his mouth and blow off the steam like he was smoking cigarette.

Junior's lips always drooled whenever he was lost in something and just then, my evil genius took over me. Mummy had told me to flick his lips with my fingers to teach him how to suck it in. And that was exactly what I did.

His sudden wail awoke someone.
"Who are those children that would not allow someone to sleep, ehn?"bellowed a man in Aunty Chi-Chi's room. We shook in fright. Junior's cry died as instantly as it began, his lip drooling still. After seconds of lull, he resumed,with hiccups, not giving a fig about whoever he might have roused from sleep and who he might awake. I leaned closer to him to placate him covering his mouth with my hands, but he dug his tiny teeth in my palms. I retreated in pain.

A short while, Aunty Chi-Chi emerged with a pregnant looking man. She was adjusting her bra straps and checking for stains on the seat of her red skirt.

"Good evening." I greeted the man. He did not respond. "Good evening Aunty Chi-Chi." Junior sucked on his thumb and was in no mood to offer greetings.
"Evening sweetheart, " she said. "How are you?"Then she turned to the man, "The kid is greeting you, now."
The man grunted and walked away and she followed him to his car.

"I will tell mummy when she wakes." Junior said. "I will tell her you begged Prisicillia for sweets and when she was not around you watched film in Uncle Moses house." I stuck out my lip to him.

Aunty Chi-Chi was walking back towards us. "Now who is making my husband cry?"she said, squatting and taking Junior in her arms. He buried his head in her ample bosom, turned around and pointed at me, thumb still in mouth.

"Ezinne! Junior!" We looked up in unison. Mummy appeared, standing on the balcony, her face swollen with sleep and anger. "Who told you to go down stairs, eh? Come on will you come upstairs immediately!" My bum sucked in instinctively in fear and anticipation of what would follow.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

ASUU STRIKE: A NOTE TO MY UNDERGRADUATE FRIENDS (by guest blogger, Chimaobi Ugoala)

First, you have to note that you are in good company. ASUU strike did not start with you and may not end with you. So you might have to brace up and shed that abiding optimism that the strike will be called off soon.
It may not be so. Therefore you have to prepare for the long haul just in case.

As an undergraduate under the hawkish Obasanjo regime (as civilian president), I witnessed two ASUU strikes. One lasted for 6 months while the other 4 months. Initially, majority of us needed the strike, just to have a break from the suffocating lectures, assignments and term papers. Two to three weeks after, we were yearning to resume school. We then became automatic newshounds, scrambling for every piece of news on ASUU-FG negotiations, and of course roadside negotiators too, analyzing and apportioning blames between the two combatants.

By the end of the first month as the strike dragged on without any hope of resolution, our optimism has turned a blistering frustration. The boredom was biting hard. Family tensions and uneasy parent-adolescent relationships were resurrected, threatening to develop into a fracas yet none of the belligerent combatants was showing any sign of standing down. We cursed under our breath as we reminisced school days and idealized our friends (oh how we missed them especially in the absence of social media then). By the end of the second month, we had completely relapsed into a secluded resignation. The strike may as well last forever.

In all of this, we the students were the ultimate losers. ASUU will eventually force the FG to either sign agreements they don't intend to honour or hand them out some enhanced package akin to a placating tokenism. We, the students bore the brutal brunt of the needless feud with our academic calendar ruthlessly distorted and our expected graduation time elongated. Worse of all, a portion of our lives has been wasted. That's the point of this whole write-up. This is a time that can be easily wasted.

ASUU and FG can distort your academic calendar, elongate your convocation date but don't allow them to waste your life. Employ this time wisely. In doing this, you basically have two options – You either engage in some brisk entrepreneurial activities and make some money for yourself or you maximize this time for aggressive self development.

I will vote for self-development, after all its ultimately more rewarding in the long-run. Its curriculum has never changed, it comprises the usual fundamentals – read as widely as you can (you can make that a bit more strategic by focusing on areas of your comparative advantage and long-term interests), listen to as many audio tapes as possible, enroll for training on acquisition of vital skills and if you can, go for conferences and workshops.

You also need to know that you have some new enemies now and they are neither ASUU nor FG. They might be friends you usually engage in idle chit-chatting with, the truckload of DVD films you've acquired or borrowed, the cable news channels, with engrossing soaps and addictive reality shows and yes, the social media. Flee from your enemies.

Finally, this period might be the most exciting and rewarding time of your life or it may turn out to be the most frustratingly boring. Goodnews is – the choice is yours.

Being Given Away( A child-bride's tale.)

I kept fiddling with my fingers, shyness and nervousness getting a better part of me. Whenever I raised my head I caught the man gazing at me and when our eyes met, he'd wink. This may have been a strategy to get me shy and it worked.
Tiny wet cells in my armpit conversed endlessly. If I made the mistake to look up again, I'd catch him smiling, running his hands over his neat beards, winking still.
"You see," my father was saying, "when Ngaji my first wife was coming in and out of labour with tiny female tots, I felt like I was the only accursed man walking the face of the earth. That was when thoughts of taking another wife danced in my head and I could not resist the temptation though I was warned against it. I could not resist even though right now,I have borne the brunt. A new woman comes with a brand new set of palaver. New responsibilities, another brick house to erect, more school fees to pay, another woman prattling and bending your ears with her naggings.
"But now, years later, I see the profits. The handsome dowry, haha, I have come to see that daughters are a certain kind of treasure. I don't know if you are getting what I am saying, the point I am driving at."
"Mmhn" The men nodded in agreement. "We get your point."
My father delivered his long lecture, his area of specialty but all the while my gaze never left the man just as his hands never Ieft his beards.
So these are the hands that would knead me in the dead of the night like pounded yam, I thought. The same hands that would hit me if I became uncontrollable. Are these the arrogant eyes that would watch over me, my goings and comings, the face my children would take a semblance to? This half-man, half-hipster would lord it over me? I shook my head.
"My son has always been at the city apprenticing for his uncle but last month his uncle established him and he branched out. He came in few days ago and I believe he has found what he came for."
"So son, what exactly do you do?" Father asked.
"Importation and exportation."
"Mmmmm,' my father's mouth watered, 'that's impressive. You must be very industrious."
"We give God all the credit." He replied. What a modest man! I thought.
"Mgbeke, you can go now, let the men discuss."
As I arose I became overtly conscious of myself, I felt their eyes were boring holes in my backside. As if on cue, the other man said, "Ah, those hips were made for the birthing of sons." Till this day I can still hear their raucous laughter, that kind of laughter that triggers your own laughter.
So I was leaving… no I was being given away and would be sent back if I misbehaved. One would not call this leaving for one left willing, on her own accord. I was being traded for with a goat, stock fish, bags of rice, tubers of yam, cartons of milk and tin tomatoes…just name it.

(Excerpt from 'A Certain Kind Of Treasure', a story that appeared in The Kalahari Review

Monday, July 22, 2013

Police Benediction

May they forget to strap on their seat belts
May they forget their drivers' licences
May they carry overload
And may they over speed.

May their cars have no inner lights
May there be thick hold-up
May they have some loose change
To slip into my fingers.

Let there be no robbery scene
I have no energy to pursue
No hit and run driver
I have no time to investigate.

But let there be a generous tip
Let me catch a drunken driver
Let there be a thick hold-up
Today I need some loose change.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

When I get Older, I will be stronger...

I think in pictures, in motion pictures. So when the issue of child-brides became dominant in my head due to the constant publicity it received this week, all I could see was a greedy man trading his little Amina, nine years old, to an old senator just to curry favour from him.

Then this hoary man drags little Amina to his dark room....

He takes off his clothes and his pouch droops and he takes hers, he's not that romantic. He orders her to take hers off and he leads her to the bed...

And his old stalwart penis stabs her and stabs her and stabs her....

And the song that plays in the background as her vulva weeps blood and her eyes bleed tears is K'naan's "Waving flag".

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When ASUU Strikes

That day, the school park was jammed and the students let loose their rascality, flying into the buses through the windows when they couldn't get in through the doors. The buses plying the nearby cities were crammed to the full, seeing that everyone had been asked to vacate the school premises with immediate effect and head homewards. There was no other option but to jostle for a space, and risk getting your clothes torn. Some of us were getting bruises and resulting to fist-fights when the occasion rose to it.

Like most youngsters, I like it better in school than at home. These two places were evenly compartmentalized in my head: school for scholarly pursuits - well you could throw in a large chunk of social activities; and home was for domestic goings-on: going to the market, scrubbing floors, washing cars, throwing the garbage…. Holding up with school work at home has never been my forte. I liked it better in school because school set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, the ability to make your own choices between what was vain and what was worthwhile without anyone’s overriding opinion. This to me was the essence of being an adult, the gist of real life. It summed up freedom for me. To say, today, I shall go to church and also give a heartfelt offering, or I shall move in with my boyfriend, go clubbing each weekend, and knowing that whatever happened to me, whatever befell me, was brought upon me myself.

But home left you few choices; it only set before you life, and the town where I lived in is such a small and quiet place where everyone guarded their reputation in their loins; in all your doings you had your parents’ fragile emotions to consider.

Had the school calendar not been disrupted, I would have been preparing for the second semester exams that were coming up the following week. But here I was heading home, even though so reluctantly. In the bus, we sat in fives. The girl in front opened a food flask and started eating rice that she had just made before the orders came, sweating profusely as she ate with the stew flavor  filling the entire bus. When the boy seating beside her scowled at her, perhaps meaning to ask her, Umuahia is such a short distance, why can’t you hold yourself and quit making us all salivate? She ventured into a long tale, of how hungry she was after a long day at the lab and on setting her table to eat what she had just cooked Voila!, the orders came. “And I am still very hungry.” she said. “What was I supposed to do? Throw the food away?  I don’t think I’d make it to Umuahia on an empty stomach. If you don’t mind, you can join me, please.”

Third week at home. Before ten a.m. I had all my chores done and my parents would be off and about their business. So the entire day stretched before me like the expanse of a vast panorama. I’d return to bed, awakened in few hours by the sound of my own snoring to take my shower. I was so idle that I’d interest myself with watching a cockroach crawl pass, muttering to it, Dude, today’s your lucky day,  or I'd watch the brown sugar ants as they moved up and down the wall, salaaming when their heads collided.

My school books lay piled on the table neatly arranged and unopened. I could not bring myself to touch them. I felt betrayed by them but if anyone had challenged this train of thought, I couldn’t bring up a proper defense for my feelings. But I felt betrayed nonetheless. In my heart I asked them, would your contents really play a major role in my life? Those nights of tireless efforts, reading your tiny texts with the dimmed brightness of my rechargeable lantern, were they in vain? Would they come to naught?

 I thought of my tutors, the bad ones and the good ones whose hearts were in their teaching. But like any laborer, no matter how zestful and brimming with vigor he was, if he entered the woods with unsharpened tools, his zeal would be made nonsensical of. I thought of them with their wages coming in trickles, and how no sooner their enthusiasm to pass knowledge to us ebbed away like the tide. And as for my course mates, where they in bed too? What were they up to?

I became enthralled by power, how very defining it was and the sheer strength of it. That a few men would sit down, put heads together and decide the fate of a large number of people, and if their counsel was good, the people rejoiced; if their counsel was bad, the  people were done for, like we were, having to sit at home for months.

Radio offered an escape some days. I’d listen and take part in the call-in relationship programs and offer advice to imaginary people with imaginary issues. My husband and the maid…or the secretary, oh what should I do? The cars had a louder wheeze as they drove past.  In those days I had enough sleep to last me a lifetime. Then when power came, I’d watch TV, dozing off till the people in the TV began watching me.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When My Heart Could Love

I used to be capable of love, of trust, of sundry mushy feelings. My heart once beat to the rhythm of someone’s name. It’s not been so long. Then I could break into poetry; say a thing so profound and quotable. It’s not been so long. I could  turn a simple meal to a feast, a stroll together into an unforgettable date. Love heightened my senses. I could really hear the nursery rhyme melodies of the ice-cream man; could smell from a distance the corn and pear roasted by the the roadside women. So intense was nature that everything had a meaning: the twittering of birds, the swaying of trees, love-calls of toads by night. Then I died to myself, to my whims, to my caprices. All that mattered in the world was the object of my affection. I wanted every conversation stretched just to watch the smooth glidings of his Adam apples.

A love where I had a voice that was not only heard but listened to; not the kind of love where your voice is muffled beneath the bubbles of slavish loyalty. Not the kind that your name always sounds like a surprise on the lips of the caller and your moans so rehearsed. I speak of the kind where for the first time, I found someone as intriguing as my favorite soap that I never wanted to see season finale; he was to me a fascinating event I relived in his absence. He lived across the street, handsome but broke and you know such compassion elicited between have-er and have-not. We were age mates and we were planning a future together. When my older lover dropped a check, I’d cash it and give it to this younger man. We were saving for a brighter day, we were saving for my bride price, to wipe the shame off my parents' face. In a short while, the world would be a better place. Love made me a dreamer, for once I believed. Is it still in vogue, to dream and believe in beautiful hopes? Haha.

Then my older lover discovered; a pair of briefs in the closet that wasn’t his. I denied it. I admitted it. I wrung my hands and pleaded. After all I’ve done for you, he said, this is the way you repay me?
 He did not hit me. He was too cultured to do that. But he sent thugs after him, my true love, the young man who was eating all the money he sent me and making a public spectacle of a big man like him. They hit him,  so hard he lost a tooth. I went to his house to console him but he pulled a machete from under his bed and gave me a chase. I ran forgetting my shoes. And he cursed me for the tooth he lost and promised vengeance.

 One night, on my way from a friend’s place, with only a lone star in the sky, he and his gang lay siege on the road and they took their turns. It was there, when I was lying on my back on the wet bush, looking at that lone star, when my voice had become weak from pleading  and the oscillatory motions of their thrusting made the star swing like a pendulum,  that was when my heart forgot the techniques of love.

(Excerpt from Chronicles of A Keot Woman)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mother says....

Mother says
The world has gone rife with perversity
So we look at it
Only through the windows of the living room
 "Don't play with the kids outside
 For they are below contempt."
So we sit in front of the TV
Ladled with oily snacks and big toys
To the escape the perversity
Of the world outside.

But what we see in the box
Mugs our childhood
Leaving us more rotten
Than the kids who play outside.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


We will crouch to kiss your paws
We your area boys
Just hand us our bundle of mints
And we shall sing your praises even in our sleep

We will wear your face on our chests
Grind in the streets to the songs of your name
We will glue your posters on our fences
Defacing the walls for our hero

But when you win and the 'Hurrays!' peter out
These posters will lose their gloss
After our tropical sun
And our heavy rains
Have rained on them
Though the fences heave in relief
Our skins will still glisten
With the snake oil you sold us

Then after your four years of pomp
Or – yes– even eight years of pageantry
Your vaunted name shall fizzle out
7Up left open for too long
Our eyes will squint in slow remembrance
As we shuffle through the files of our brains
To remember you,our hero past

And all your achievements–
Gaudy castles on quicksand
Will tilt and crumble
By just a slight poke of a gentle breeze

(image courtesy

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Things That Didn't Become

All I can say of my life is that some things have not gone exactly as planned. Like in elementary 3 when I shared a bench with Torti Silvanus, a certain boy with infectious unquietness.  We were caned so often that I had to think up a device to save my bum from further ruin. While we dressed for school one morning, I stole my mother’s girdle and wore it beneath my P.E shorts, holding the loose sides with a clothes peg.

In class, I and Torti talked and whistled and made faces at the busybody class captain as she wrote names of noisemakers. I would have been disappointed if my name was not on the list. We were called out in front of the class to take our whipping. Torti always gave a spectacle; he’d wind his pelvis and take his strokes with stylish grunts. His bum was made of dead cells, I bet you; that dude never cried. When my turn came, I thought, Bring it on Ma'am, bring it on! For I know my defense is sure! But when Madam Nwaubani grabbed my shorts across my bum, I guess she smelled foul play. She increased her horsepower and I cried and cried and cried, my defense failing me.

 In my first year in boarding school, I couldn’t understand why the meals were so sparse and the tea too hot and transparent. So one night during prep, I wrote my mother a faux suicide note to be delivered by my guardian, a teacher who lived on the same street with us. All I can remember in the note is, “If I die… if I die…, HA HA HA HA!” The plan was that my mother would come the next morning, have a row with the teachers and beat up all the seniors that bullied me and then bundle her darling daughter home. Well, she did come but there was no row with no one. Neither was anyone beaten up. But at least she came with homemade food which I devoured at the gateman’s post and I went on to spend six more years in that school.

 Was it the failed plans of becoming a nun (whoever put that idea in my head); a doctor, after I flunked the first aptitude test and suddenly realized I was a misfit and too restless for the medical world; when I thought I’d be the last born forever and my mother showed up from the hospital with a brand new baby? The list of dreams long perished goes on. At 14, I decided to write my life’s calendar. I asked my mother, “When did you get married?” and she said 22. I wanted same for me, so I marked it down, forgetting this is not 1980-something when men came easy. Or is it when I had to stay home one whole year as I waited admission to the university…? So many failed plans.

But none of these things move me. Rather I’m on my knees, rubbing my palms together, grateful to God for those things that could have been but did not become; the things I wanted to be but did not become. If that girdle prank had worked, I might have still been ridden with Torti’s rambunctiousness, for the next day, I pleaded with Madam Nwaubani  to take my seat far, far away from his.

Had I left boarding school, I would have been sent to one of those bush schools nearer home and I would not have learned the grace to endure, how to abase and how to abound, to be content, whether hungry or full. Thank God for that denied admission, for that extra year at home that inflicted me with severe loneliness. Without it, I would never have put pen to paper and become the writer that I am. And thank God it didn’t happen at 22. For the way it is with me and how ambitious I can get, who knows, I could have had 7 children by now!

(image source:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Of Animals And Lovers

There I sat at my corner, seeking answers within my soul, and I realized that in love, romance alone is just not enough. It is only a trifle compared to the main thing. Mere animals with their little reasoning also know how to be enamored with each other.
For I looked outside my window and I observed two dogs licking each other's lips, taking time to smell each other's bottom.
I saw the seedy billy-goat mount the nanny-goat in plain view- they are so enraptured they do not deign to take cover, defying motorists and passers-by.
I saw the impassioned cockerel give the little hen a spirited chase.
If these beasts devoid of much reasoning know the throes of passion, then more is expected of men.
A love based only on the hinges of coitus and passion is missing the forest for the trees.

Sexual Epiphany

I was nine, my fifth year in elementary school when one day, out of curiosity, I pulled out my mother’s Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and looked up the word 'sex'. I wish I had spared myself that knowledge for suddenly, my little world took on a harsher hue. The second meaning of the word was not as intriguing as the first-it was just a synonym for ‘gender’. But it was the first meaning that took preeminence; it handed me a ticket to the theatre of the adult world. Now I knew what my King James Bible tried to hide from me when it used the word ‘intercourse’. I knew what was in those movies grown-ups watched behind locked up doors after they shooed us away. I knew what might be in those books and magazines my aunties hid from me and slapped my hands whenever I touched them, shouting, "This book is not for small children!”  
So this was it. Really…? I see….

Sadly, I was alone in my discovery. It was too risqué to share with fellow playmates and too risky to confide in an adult. Prior to then, I thought boys only differed from me because they wore shorts to school and I, a gown. In class, I shared a bench with two boys- I sat between them- but after my discovery, I saw the boys in a different light. They piqued my curiosity and it was hard for me to keep up with the notion that they were ordinary playmates.

September came and I was ready for boarding school. My mother sat me down and spoke to me softly, about what was happening to my body and what more would happen to it. She told me why my chest was gathering and why the pubes were appearing; why I shouldn’t be scared and why I should not cry like the bush girls in her school days that woke one morning and found stains on their beddings. She told me how that with just a little frolicking with the boys, another being could form on my inside. I was not shocked on receiving the new knowledge she passed down to me. This news weren't so incredible to my mind for my imaginations had fully prepared me.

It was when I arrived the gates of my new school, an all girls’ secondary school that my situation dawned on me. I was ten and for the next six years I'd be here, there'd be no boys. The following years were filled with lessons on being ladies, lessons on how to be mannered, how to be witty without being sassy, how to eat the lean and very annoying food with forks and knives (didn’t they know how hungry we were?). We in turn taught ourselves how to strut, keeping time to the music playing in our heads. These were all in preparation for the ‘wider world’, as our principal loved to call it. But to me, the phrase 'wider world' was just another euphemism for the word 'men', just as my Bible called sex, "intercourse". So I learnt my social graces with much vigor. I could not wait to show them off to the 'wider world'. I could have given an arm for that world. I so wanted to meet men.

When I came home on breaks and holidays however, incidences that adorned my home life scared me a bit from that world. When I waked from my sleep to the ‘you-will-kill-me-today’ cries of my neighbor as her husband disciplined her; when I eavesdropped on my aunties’ kitchen gossip as they pitied that Big Madam that took on an ascetic lifestyle, preferring to walk the length and breadth of our town rather than buying herself a car, all for fear of frightening off suitors; when my aunties returned from the market with the tales of two women-a wife and a mistress-fighting and tearing each other’s brassieres( in the marketplace!) over a man; when I saw the shame smeared like mud on the teenage mom’s face and that popular warning that came with her condition: ‘Don’t let that child call you mummy so you won't ruin your chances’; when I saw how ostracized the divorced woman was and the plight of the widow after her in-laws have picked her clean of every inheritance; all these frightened me. Are these the sacrifices to be madeSo much to give and so much to bear for the ‘wider world’!

I was young and hearing these stories and observing these occurrences made me think that  whenever a mosquito bit a woman, it must have been a male one.Yet amid these woes, it didn’t stop these women from knocking on our doors, presenting my mom with invitation cards, their faces beaming. “Madam, rejoice with me oh...,” one would say. “God has finally caused his face to shine on me.” And they would make haste to borrow me from my mother to be one of their flower girls.

On those Saturdays, we’d be dolled up alongside the bride, the whole world in various shades of glee; the bride filled with so much laughter that she'd be unable to blow off a candle if you had placed one before her.But with time, I discovered something and I wondered if I was alone in my knowledge this time.

I observed the suppressed vivacity of the bride few months and years after that walk down the aisle. Where there used to be nail varnish, now there lay chipped nails. Where there used to be smart skirts, there were boubous. Where there used to be lissome bosom, I saw flaccidity. It was as though when she said, “Yes I do” to her man, she turned around and said, “No I don’t” to her ambitions. The 'wider world' wasn't as rosy as I had thought.

Only when I came to maturity and began forming my own thoughts, deciding to disregard what thoughts my environment tried to hand me, that was when I realized there was really nothing to break my head for ‘the wider world’and those who chose to break their heads and wreck their lives did so out of ignorance.  I discovered what little differences lay between a man and me. We were two souls living in different bodies and these souls of ours were gender-less; they had no sex to them. The only differences were in our bodies and in our senses. Where he had heftiness in his chest, I had suppleness in mine. Where there was a baritone in his voice, there was softness in mine. His frame was built with more sinews than mine to bear the weights I could not carry.I discovered that I was only a woman in my senses. If he touched me right and gently, I will open like a flower in bloom, but if he hit me with his fist, I will give a cry that will shake his teeth in their gums. If he loved me right in the dead of night, by morning, I will awake, singing while I make his breakfast. In a union I knew my role and it was in debatable.

But whenever I leave the confines of our love nest and I come face to face with a world repressive of women, I needed to let my sexless soul emerge without losing my feminine composure- those lessons on social graces were worth it after all. In a world where someone might try to sit on my promotion because of my sex, I needed to let loose and set free my gender-less soul.

It is sad to see the optionless life many women lead because of how successfully their minds have been repressed to inactivity. If a man can be, why can’t I? What hinders a woman is not her body or her sex but her poor mind and her ignorant soul. A weak soul would yield a weak person, male or female, just as a mean soul yields a mean-spirited person.  Quoting Daniel Defoe, "The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond; and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear."

 I am no longer of the school of women that believe the 'wider world' is sole reason for existence, women waiting for a men to give them their voices -they’d so wait! It is just a handful of men that are willing to keep mute to let me speak, for every man loves deeply the timbre of his own voice. So amid the chorus of a million baritone voices, I have decided to make my voice unique enough to be heard, to lead a life not limited by the presence or absence of the 'wider world' and to keep refining my sexless soul.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Waiting For Midnight

He was waiting for midnight.

The harmattan air was bitter and when they inhaled, it felt like pepper in the nose. They shared a pillow, and looking at his lips, she thought they looked like he had just eaten akara. He had on the bottom of his pyjamas and she, its oversize top. He depressed a button on the phone and the white light illumined their faces.

“Eleven forty-two,” he said as he got out of the bed.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“To pee.”

“Don’t pee on the fence. They will fine you.”

“I can’t use that toilet this night, it’s too dark.”

“Take the torch.”

He took it and flashed the dim light on the wooden wardrobe fastened to the wall. The door was weighed down by an assortment of male and female apparels hanging from nails stuck in the board. He took off his slippers and killed two cockroaches. “God punish you,” he muttered as he gathered the corpses.

He left the room, shutting the door unsuccessfully behind him. Someone outside was pulling the starter of a generator but its motor would run for a short while then sputter. She listened. The operator was bent on his task. He pulled and pulled for a while longer, then hissed and went inside.

‘Thank God.”

Her skin was dry and itchy. She reached for the plastic rack that held her woman things and applied oil to her skin.

He returned and lay on his back, breathing loudly through his nose. Then a short while later he reached for the phone.

“Eleven fifty- five.”

She pulled the blanket over their bodies. “Why do you keep checking the time? Put on a shirt, are you not cold?”

“I saw Isiagu today,” he said as if that was the answer to her questions.

“Where?  How is he?”

“He looks worse every year than the one before.”

“Where did you see him?”

“I was inside a keke when he flagged us down but we weren’t going his way.”

“Did he see you?”

“No.  I wish he did.”


“To show him that I am still alive and breathing.”

“He wasn’t looking well?” she said and let out a sigh. “Maybe because of his shop that burnt down.”

“A pity …” he began then sprang to his feet.

“Where are you going to again?”

 “Wait I didn’t shut that door well.”

After much pushing and poking at the hinges, the door pretended to be closed.

“It’s open again,” she said and he got up and redoubled his efforts.

Power was suddenly restored and the ceiling fan began spinning with a clanging sound. He reached for the switch and turned off the light.

“Why?” she asked. “I haven’t seen light for 2 days.”

“You know I don’t like sleeping with the lights on. .”

The sound from the fan changed.

“The power’s out,” she said and sighed.

 “Why did they bother with it in the first place?”

‘It will come on again.’

“How do you know? Do you have a boyfriend at NEPA?”

She chuckled, “I used to know someone who worked there, Isiagu’s neighbor.”

“The one that rides a Vespa?”

“No. Remember the tall one with the 80s afro?”

“Okay… the one that was always scratching. Why won’t I remember him? I can’t forget anyone that lived around us then or  who had anything to do with that rogue. I just wish I was smart enough to have stolen my salary from that crook without waiting till infinity for him to pay up.”

She patted his chest. “Not stealing from him was a noble choice. Honesty always pays.”

“Look where nobility has us.” He took her palm and traced his stubble. “ Look where nobility has you, saddled with a broke man.” He turned to catch her eyes in the dark but she turned away. “You don’t like looking at me when we talk.”

“You make me shy,” she said, her voice muffled by the pillow.

“Look at me.” he said, pulling her from the waist.  “My shy little kitten with a backside that makes me want to kill a goat every time I see it.”

“Indeed! How many times have I eaten goat-meat since I married you?”

“A patient dog….”

The fan began clanging faster.

“Your battery must be low; I think you should charge your phone.”

“I am using it to check the time. I don’t want to keep walking across the room to find out what time it is.”

Rats scurried outside, knocking over the refuse bin.

“Did you buy the rat poison?” he asked.

“No. Landlady said no one should buy rat poison before her dog eats it and dies.” And right 
on cue, the dog began barking outside. He hissed. “One day, I will kill that Landlady’s dog.”

“Leave the dog alone,” she said leaning closer into him, urging him on.

He reached for his phone as he pulled her closer.

‘It is twelve o’ clock, my love. I wanted to be the first to say happy birthday.”