You judge me by my stutter
My show of sobriety
By the inklings of clumsiness
Sprinkled on my heart
You judge me by the way I talk
Your eyes pierce through me
Like sunlight on the skin
Your words become the lyrics
To a song I never wrote
I do not know the tune
The tune I now dance to
The same one you sang that day
Your voice, velvet.
You knew me in days I barely understood myself
Loved me through times I thought no one did
Sheathed me underneath your skin
Taking the blame for all my wrongs
Yet in all, I could tell
I could tell the sparse intervals in your words
I could tell the now distant songs
I could tell the little whispers that vanished with the night
You wrapped it in shiny papers and lodged it underneath your bed
I could tell the things that now seemed long gone
I could tell, with time
I could tell it all.
I am the faint wails
The rib punched at by the rim of a gun
The lachrymal chamber
Filled with the tears of thousands
I am the sprinkles of blood
Splattered against the debris
The dust filled hijab
The rows and rows of bullet holes
I am the moans of the injured
Sifting through the dense air
Cloud and smoke drifting as one
An unorthodox union
Am I the sound of campaign drums?
The twist of ballot roses
The underscore of political piety?
Am I the two thousand?
Shoved under seventeen others
The suckling child denied milk?
Am I the backdrop of politics?
An unknowing martyr?
A pillar by which the patriarch should stand?
No, I am the weeping mother
Whose voice has been drowned by the sound of the drums
Beating, Beating, for me? For justice?
No, for the tale of Valentine boxes
I am the little child
Who never gets to be heard
Who asks for biscuits but gets stones
The market woman
Whose wares bulge from rotten goods
Just a little over a day old
Once, I was
Now I’m not
I am seventeen
But I am two thousand too.
They said he’d have dark eyes
That his teeth would be stained from excessive smoking
They said his smile would always be muffled
And his voice would be a deep drone
They said he’d be pot bellied
With an Ample head and two left feet
They said his speech would be slurred
And by that I’d recognise him
They said he’d tell me lies and he’d be crass
That every word he said would be false
They said his eyes would always dart to the left
And he’d hate the bible like himself
You see, they didn’t tell me he’d be brown eyed
With a complete dentition
Or that when he smiled there’d be dimples on both sides of his face
They didn’t tell me we’d pass by the market
And he’d buy me those “fine, fine” things
Or that his mother would smile when she saw me
And dance in random circles
They didn’t tell me he’d buy me those batik paintings
With my name customised on it
Or that we’d dance to different scherzos
You see, he was unlike they said
Not the slightest bit similar
So I became recalcitrant
I didn’t listen to them
I wish I did
Just for a second.
© Caleb Okereke
Image: Abdul Rahman