Size / / /

CONTENT WARNING:


I am my mother.
Pea-sized feet, delicate as an egg.
Freshly severed from cords that kill,
and feed, and bind.
Swaddled in nets of grief,
spilling from mother’s man.
His mother dances,
past salty waterfalls,
and lichen-kissed cheeks.
Elephant buttocks whipping the air into submission.
“At least I have a grandchild,” she says.
“Your wife didn’t grow cold before she came back.
“Look!”
Anklets and coral beads chortle,
ululate, gyrate.
Round, and round,
and round like a hungry whirlwind,
brewed in Oya’s core.

I am my mother.
I slipped into nothingness,
when I stopped to breathe.
The dark is full of
bubbling silences.
A lone cricket chirps in my soul.
My lips are secured with backstitches.
For some reason,
crazed anklets rattle
around the edges of burnished dreams.
Chachanga, Chachanga, Chikololo.
Till someone says, “Leave.”
The world is warped,
fun-house mirrors,
and sepia-tinged sprites.
But day is coming.
Somehow, I know.

I am my grandmother.
Iron-weighted soul,
eroding into fillings.
Broken by her daughter’s passing.
I cried with her,
bawled as she held me.
Connected.
Fed on her pain.
My breasts had started budding,
when I became my grandmother.
A week after she sank into the deep,
Papa turned 42.
I wrote a poem
and tore it up,
and wrote another,
and tore it up.
Then, I sang something that
came from my stomach
and fluttered about
like butterflies around ixora bushes.
The room grew quiet,
and the warmth curdled,
grew thick like sputum,
The only sound was from his mother’s anklets.
“Come, child!” she said, dragging me away from the party.
“Who taught you what you sang back there?”
I did not remember the song,
but in the corner,
two beautiful women,
familiar as the whorls on my palm,
touched fingers to their lips.

I am my grandmother.
The child is growing fast,
just like her mother.
Ololade should have had my gift,
but who am I
not to be happy for her little one?
The Gods be praised.
She sings oriki like she was born
with ancient wisdom
brewing in her belly.
Her lips temper wisdom with rhyme.
Her verses weave webs through history.
She is a warrior princess seducing the gods to dance.
When the hummingbird sees a will-o’-de-wisp,
it does not stay to chirp.
Ololade,
nod if you are proud of your daughter.

I am Adedire,
mother of the mother who bore my mother.
She was quiet till I met him.
He shook me, said, “Hi, I’m Chuks,”
The universe tore through me.
Rainbows, and grains, and mud.
I know he saw it too.
Eyes wide, owl-like.
His pupils filled with
us running from Sango’s lightning
when we betrayed him.
A lowly servant cannot steal a king’s wife.
We escaped slave boats.
We danced to juju and apala music
when the white man
sailed from our shores.
For the thirtieth time,
our thoughts intertwined again
at the board meeting.
He slipped a note to me before he left.
His scent lingered.
Green.
Lemon.
Life.

I am Kunbi,
Daughter of Ololade.
When my shadow lengthens,
then you see all of me.
Four women, proud as peacocks,
spotting distorted heads
wrapped in turbans, and
dipped in years of ancient magick.
Our heads morph as the years simmer past us.
Good fortune follows me
when I bed my man.
We build an empire.
Get listed on Forbes.
The leaves sing with joy
when I birth my fourth child and first daughter, Ada.
The shadows grow shorter,
same as the wick on my life
And, on the day I join my mothers,
we gather round Ada’s bed,
and Grandmother and I drown her in oriki.
Praise names as old as water.
At the stroke of midnight,
she wakes.
My mother, Ololade, smiles
as the binds fall
from her lips.
She tells her grandchild of how it is time,
to wake up to the world.
She tells of man’s wickedness,
and of nothingness.
Dark spaces,
sullen and rotten.
She talks and talks and talks
and talks,
till she is a resounding echo
inside my daughter’s reeling mind.



Onu-Okpara Chiamaka is a freelance editor with an absolute love for anything weird. She’s been published in Ake Review, Apex Magazine, and Kalahari Review. Find her on Facebook with her name. Stalk her on Twitter @... oh, she’s hardly ever on Twitter.
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