Combining poetry & photography, I created visuals that carry poems through me and out to the world. From self portraits to landscape photography, I attempt to accurately and transparently portray family, religion, queerness, and the conflict all of these things cause within me. Enjoy the poems below:
I’m going to tell you a story, a true story: A black man with a black wife and a black son, calls himself pro-black, Then, twists his mouth to set my womahood on fire, says he does not want a daughter, bathes in my ashes, the black man’s unborn daughter screams at his cruelty but he drowns her too.
Let’s play a game, if a Nigerian woman has 5 children and none of them are boys is she
d.) a rotting flower
Another Story: my sister says ‘I miss you’ but she says it like ‘it’s hard being the only girl in the house.’ She tells me a boy at school make bets on invading her body. She tells me one boy tried to steal her body from her. the boy asked if they are still friends… it starts young, boys steal from girls then ask for love as forgiveness.
Here is the next question:
If a Nigerian woman has 5 children and all of them are daughters, are the daughters
a.) flowers nobody ever wanted
b.) bound to be hurt by men
c.) their father’s property until it’s time to inherit
d.) somebody’s housewife
My favorite story: When me & my sister fight, my mom says “I never had a sister. I always wanted two girls and god, this great god, blessed me with two beautiful daughters, so please… don’t fight.” My mother taught me I am wanted before men could open their mouths.
The final question: A Nigerian woman pulls her 5 daughters close to her chest, her heart beating, the 5 daughters look up at their father and ask, will you:
a.) look for another wife
b.) despise her
c.) despise her
d.) dispose of her
I’m going to tell you a story, A true story about flowers that turn to ashes when men deem them unworthy: School girls in Nigeria go missing and only mothers cry. The men know their sons are safe and their last names will live on. One girl returned from death alive with a baby from the afterlife, her father & brothers will not look at her. Another woman decides to remove her tongue, tries to forget her memories, cries only at night for fear that her husband will know she is tainted.
At my school, a black man leans back in his chair, casts my womanhood into the grave he dug for me, says he does not want a daughter & still calls himself a revolution, as he tramples over my dead body into battle… & I want to cry but I don’t, instead I tell a story, a never-ending story about a massacre of flowers, a slow genocide of the most beautiful beings this world refuses to love.
You, woman, pure desires, unbroken pussy, glorified womb.
You, woman, covered in white cloth and male expectation.
You, woman, the example for little girls in sunday school to follow.
You, woman, dumped with the burden of a god without your consent.
How typical of a man,
To assume that your body is his wash towel, his vehicle, his.
Mother Mary, is that your legacy?
A woman of purity and perfection.
Didn’t you ever wonder what your nipples taste like on the lips of someone else?
Didn’t you ever want Joseph to touch your waist and strip you of your layers… real slow?
Did you practice your moan?
Oh Holy Mary, did you ever touch yourself?
I know baby Jesus came with stainless sheets and a moanless bond,
But, there had to have been those days
When Jesus was out learning Joseph’s craft and the dishes were done and the food was ready and the daily prayers and meditations were over and the house was clean and quiet,
When it was empty and taskless.
Wandering off into a bed,
Fingers synchronized with melodic moans, sweat flowing with childlike excitement,
Your body rising to a glorious peak,
Honeyed with pleasure.
Tell me, dear Mary, has your orgasm ever been as holy as your celibacy?
She takes one sip of her iced coffee,
grabs my hand, says, “Oh child, Joseph didn’t ever want to touch my hips.
He said I have too many bodies, a pussy that can be opened with too many keys…called my tongue a serpent and my womb its servant.”
I choke on my scone, look at the trembling woman.
Her head low, she swallows her river as it falls from her eyes.
I pinch my tongue between my teeth,
She continues “I never wanted this for you… I wouldn’t wish my life onto any woman.
Mary squeezes my hand, whispers to lean in close:
My dear, let me tell you something, a man will never know how powerful god is until he knows a woman. Your body is the lighthouse, it is the salvation. The body of a woman is the water into wine, nothing into life, the miracle. Women are the strength that carry the world over water. If this world still stands, know it is because of a woman. Honor your desires, my beloved. You are the holy, you are the heaven in the sky. Say this prayer in my honor:
Hail full of
Blessed is you
Holy Mother, God
pray for us.
I can’t taste the sun from in here. The velvet, rocky road textured curtains keep light from coming in yet it seeps through the sides like the blood and water from Jesus’ sides. I only say this because my room is filled with em—pictures of savior-white Jesus in pastel reds and his mother—pure-white Mary in soft blue and quiet desires. Jesus’ starved ribs are hanging from mahogany with rosary beads draped around his frail metallic neck, suffocating him…suffocating me. Another day to sit in room temperature loneliness because my parents fear the outside for us. My parents only listen to bad news. They know only of death by the white hand and/ or a Black American one. They fear what happens to black bodies in sunlight, on street corners, in the mixed suburbs of a predominantly black county. But can I blame them? What has this country offered them except ultimatums for their black kids? So I comply. Mostly because my older brother does and I follow hilm like a small shadow with a short temper. It’s 2pm, time for lunch. Today, we eat overcooked hotdogs with ketchup and salty ramen noodles. My sister spreads the hotdog in half with a knife, stuffs it with wet yellow noodles, then tops it with ketchup. I watch her, disgusted. She notices me & her brown eyes disappear between her eyelids and her lips spread wide open in laughter. I call this home.
My phone is a beckoning desert, with depression-colored snakes hidden in its cracks. My lockscreen is so quiet and barren as usual. I have a cheap android and lukewarm friends so I don’t get to complain about groupchat messages blowing up my phone like the other kids. I sit peacefully in confinement and it’s hard to tell if it is by my parent’s conditioning or by choice. Perhaps both. That’s what it’s like living within these four white, religious walls, within this small house with too many kids, on this mixed suburb street with black people two houses down. I started reading books, though, so it’s not too bad except when I wanna talk to someone other than myself about how Virginia Woolf wrote the words that I haven’t had the frontal lobe to, but I had felt it. Or how Toni Morrison snatched my soul and fed it to Sula. But I only have a few hours to let her before mass. You see, in this house God comes first (even though fear beats him all the time.) So church is twice a week. It starts at 5:30, but my father likes to chant Hail Marys before the mass starts so we have to leave early. The whole day revolves around it. It’s 2pm, and it’s time for lunch. My mom tells me to bring out glass bowls, and fill them with fresh red stew, juicy brown beef, and white rice. We say a prayer. 4:30, it’s time to go. Saint Anthony is waiting for our begging.
We say more prayers.
The smell of fresh banana nut muffin kisses me on the nose. I hear a cadence of drums vibrating through the floors in sync with tapping feet and hands raised towards the heavens. My mom is playing Nigerian praise songs in the kitchen, the thick accent, and repetitive rhythms always carry her home—She’s happiest in her memories. It is a bittersweet time when my mom is home. It means food. But it also means nagging about how men won’t want a woman who doesn’t cook which means I have to help her cook which means she won’t let me stay in my room. I hate cooking with my mom. Her disapproval peels my soft skin away. It’s the way she spits staccato insults at my mistakes. Why did I ever leave my room? Oh yea, for food. It’s lunchtime. My mom strips black eyed beans, blends em with onions, and fries em. We call this masterpiece akara. I reach for the syrup while my siblings fight over the ketchup and side eye me.
Silly kids, syrup is better.
We eat black eyed beans with a banana. Yea, my parents are Nigerian like that.
On Friday, we eat cut cubes of white yam with stew grazed on top. Sometimes, I eat it with ketchup which is to say that sometimes I feel like I’m too American for Nigerians and too Nigerian for Americans.
My father’s voice resonates like large, ol’ bells at the bottom of the staircase. He is a creature of habit and breeds his children to be like him—disciplined. Every weekend is the same. On Saturdays my father makes us go to the gym. After that we eat out and then come home. My father rests in his black lounge chair and watches the soccer games he recorded throughout the week. This is his resting. This is how he heals from America, its traffic and bad news. My father jumps out his seat and screams “ahhhhh lelele” as someone misses the goal. I hear him all the way downstairs.
I do not want to be like him.
In the evening, we eat signature jollof rice with smoked turkey and a ripe banana.
My father insists that God loves those who sacrifice time for him. He favors those that arise at 6:30am to praise him at 8’oclock mass. And I swear to God that God could care less. But we burn gas to go praise a white man, hanging from a cross with silky hair to his shoulders down in DC. This is another form of my father’s healing, or perhaps it is a reason to live. My father is a good, brainwashed man. He is both desperate and hopeful. He is both “have faith” yet let’s fear grip him by the neck. He has only taught me contradiction and still refuses to answer my questions. My father sings very loudly during mass and I used to be embarrassed but who am I to teach healing when I am still burning? I sing along, quietly. When it’s over, we go home. At 2pm, my father serves pounded yam and soup. It is everyone’s most dreaded meal of the week. But we are Nigerian, my father reminds us. Do not forget the language that binds us. Do not forget the blood and beauty of your ancestors.
Do not confuse this place as home.
*One day my father, as a creature of habit, made a schedule of food for us to eat throughout the week. He taped it to the refrigerator. Years later, we bought a new refrigerator. Today, I noticed that the schedule wasn’t there and so much has changed. Perhaps home is a fluid thing. So volatile, it is difficult to have.
Dear Rising Sun
Dear rising sun,
Let me love where it is warm,
Lead me out of the darkness,
Where I can see my own body,
The hands that found music
On her brown skin,
The lips that would not
Let the music stop.
Dear rising sun,
Tell my cousin that I miss him
I can’t breathe when he’s around…
ever since he started going to that new church,
His spirit feels different,
Bent on hanging my heart from his god’s dartboard.
His god, a bitter bitter man,
told my people to sharpen their knives
For Ifunanya that lives under the moon,
His god keeps us away from the sun.
Tell my cousin that I can see my blood beneath his tongue.
Tell him his words
Run the knives they’ll use to kill me.
Tell my people,
That blood is blood
No matter who they love.
It is said that Igbo people would rather die
than become slaves,
Dear rising sun,
Tell my people
that I am still of this blood,
& because of that
Fear fears me.
I will not hide under the moon, oh rising sun,
Set me free.
Dear rising sun,
I remember when you opened my eyes
The night after,
To see the glory of the brown woman,
Oh rising sun,
You saw us,
Blasphemy between our lips
The devil dancing under our tongues with us,
And you called it ifunanya.
You watched us,
As I stared at her using
The crescents of your light
Pouring in gently through the curtains,
As we danced or struggled
To see who could bare to stop kissing first.