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Inyanga: Poetry by Ugochukwu Damian Okpara


at three
silence grows like wildfire
in places
words should have been

mother says that i am careful
with whom i give
my words to
that i am born with
inyanga on my lips

at five
silence is an open wound
on my skin that refuses to heal
i tell mother
that the boys in school
pan silence into my body
and once they said that
i was possessed by mammy water
and that i love to do inyanga with my hip

mother says that i should worry not
that swaying hip
i would outgrow

at ten
boys in my school say
that i am a metaphor for weak
and that i love to do inyanga
like a girl

i swallow words with silence

at seventeen
i tell mother that inyanga
lives in my hip and that
is why my hip swings like pendulum

mother says that i should worry not
that swaying hip
i would outgrow

inyanga is a boy with swaying
inyanga is igbo for shakara
inyanga is growing and eating
silence for being soft and beautiful

inyanga is me at twenty-two
eating silence with prayers
hoping that being beautiful
and soft
i’d outgrow


Inyanga: showing off
Mammy water: water spirit
Shakara: pride, showing off


Poem © Ugochukwu Damian Okpara
Image: remixed

Ugochukwu Damian Okpara
Ugochukwu Damian Okpara
Ugochukwu Damian Okpara, Nigerian-born poet, is an unapologetic flower boy. He began writing poetry in 2017 and his major themes explore depression, gender, and sexuality. He was one of the 21 mentees in the second cohort of the SLM Mentorship Programme and the 1st Runner Up in the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize 2019. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in African writer, Kreative Diadem, NSPP 2019 Anthology, Straight Forward Poetry and elsewhere.

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