Marketplace

Off to the market to buy love 

Mother sent you with five coins in your hand 

A worthless overpriced contraption

New shoes cost three

So two went to the alchemist under a wooden shed 

A knock-off in your hands 

Dancing happily to the gates of your house 

You held a watered down emotion 

Even more complex than the real thing

Guard never fully let down

Sharp toothed gates pulled halfway 

Scarring your hands as they reach out 

Scarring hands that reach in 

If you ever get the money back 

Get lavender for your wounds

And the worthless overpriced contraption- the real one.

For my children

You will not be fathered by a bigot 

Or raised in a house where the legitimacy of the very breaths you take 

Are policed by their non existence in scripture 

You will be allowed to make your own mistakes 

With your parents voices and hands slowly guiding you 

Their love catching you when you fall 

Love will be on your foreheads 

Etched in your memory hopefully 

Discipline framing thoughts like a steel rod 

Framing thoughts more than actions 

You will not be taught right from wrong 

More than you will be taught the reasons for right from wrong 

Your home will be a safety net 

Not a net for catching your wrongs like fish in the ocean 

Where you are afraid to breathe for  fear of being out of water 

Your questions will be answered 

Your voice or silence will matter 

Mistakes made confessed and forgiven 

Scars nurtured and stitched …helped to heal 

Mom and Dad will not be plastic mannequins of war soldiers 

But humans with raw emotions 

Not harnessing bamboo canes or leather belts 

Strong enough to make our essence felt

Blanks

Doesn’t matter how I feel

It’s gone in the morning 

Like i’m someone else on the outside 

Watching me live my life 

Like you’re fired up in the theatre 

And on your way home 

Then the excitement filters 

Along with the steam 

From your microwave noodles 

When you’re back home alone

I don’t have full words 

For you or for me 

No elegantly spun sentences 

Just halves 

There’s nothing to draw out 

Problems deeper than 

You, me, us 

They’re air 

They’re dust 

Atomic 

No definitions 

Or diagnoses  

They’re all blanks 

And we’re numb

Cal

You make your way to the seams of my favourite dress or skirt 

And peek, more visible than ever 

Make your way through enzymes 

Flow through my bloodstream 

Clogging and tugging at the strings of my heart 

Simultaneously 

Literally 

I love you 

When everyone understands 

Even when they don’t know it yet 

They love you too 

The doctor examines my foot…swollen and rotten 

But I’ll give my arms and the rest of my legs for you 

I may die early but I know what I’ve lived for 

You on my plate 

And in my head 

I’m staring at my ring finger 

I should take it off but I can’t

You’ve insisted I keep it on 

Though my finger throbs

And skin folds make it impossible to see 

I’ll cut it off when you’re not looking 

Thank you for being here through thick and thin 

In my wedding cake and my daily packet of crisps.

Everything

You can’t be in a ballroom

Baring teeth to people you don’t know

Or raising a glass 

Clutching a fake Manolo 

Wondering if anyone noticed 

If you didn’t get the text 

Or the invite on your desk 

You can’t be at a concert 

With the loud music you don’t like 

Seemingly billions of decibels higher 

Than the one that makes you grit your teeth 

In the passenger’s seat 

There were no tickets in your mail

You can’t pretend you know how to cook 

The lamb that makes your stomach fold on itself 

Clutching your printed pages 

Blotched from 3 nights of practice 

No. 

But you hear all the laughter 

And the music 

Smell the burning spices from far away 

You feel it and you don’t 

A life you don’t want but do 

When you can’t be everything 

To another who wants nothing to do with you.

Losing a loved one

Laugh at the therapist’s 

Not because anything’s funny 

But because you don’t know what else to do 

It’s hysterical 

The kind of laughter that comes for a bad joke …a dark, morbid one

Laugh when other people tell you nothing is funny 

Like you’re willing yourself to 

But you’re not 

It just comes

Smile when you hear ill-thought -out words

Reach for a hug while you still can 

Then watch as the lucid happy memories of the person you once knew 

Fade.

Chioma

Chioma had a problem she could not see

A severe case of empathy 

She forgot- weak needs strong 

She adopted everyone’s struggles to a fault 

That’s why she cried louder than everyone else at Amaka’s father’s funeral 

Louder than the bereaved themselves 

She loved to wrap herself in others’ misery 

Borrowed clothes. 

Her condition worsened after her family got a television

Now Chioma could forget about her own problems 

Her family’s problems 

The war in her village 

And adopt the wars in places far away 

Places she had never been 

She adopted racism 

Although the fairest person she knew was Ugochukwu 

She did not attend her village youth meeting 

Where the women were assigned the task of cooking for the soldiers 

She was fixated on the war in America. 

She painted her lips red 

And her nails blue 

Her hair white 

In blind solidarity with people she didn’t know 

The war in her village was not her problem 

She had gone mad. 

If she wasn’t thinking about possible solutions to America’s problems 

Or creasing her brows at the President’s new policies 

Maybe she’d have heard her mother say 

Don’t go to the stream today

America on her mind 

Calabash on her head 

Chioma died with an arrow in her chest.