photo credit: Laura Waterbury
I’m without a mother and father the week of Christmas,
my mother says I’m a bad daughter and that she’ll never speak to me again.
I told my father I’m a dyke & it’s been crickets ever since.
with this weight on my chest and on my back, I’m missing Naija soil,
chasing my parents’ approval and I’m never gonna get it.
I’ve been watching my mother slowly die for years
but it feels like my name on the tombstone
how many ways are there to love a person?
I feel my lover slipping from my grasp so I want to let go
I will not hold you here, it no be by force.
if you wanna go, abeg GO.
I make pilgrimages to what we could be everyday,
crying holy water tears as I watch today bleed and writhe in the bed beside me
she doesn’t know how many times she breaks my heart with her words and distance
I look at her, kiss her, lay in her arms and wonder
will be the day
she shatters my heart.
I’d rather be on stage than dealing with any of this in my everyday,
I can deal with all this
in a place where I know everyone came to listen,
where I know I can make you understand,
where I feel more like myself with everyone watching than alone in my room,
where I can be everything I don’t think I’m brave enough to be offstage
I’d rather be on stage than be your confused, insecure lover
Or your unappreciated, guilt-stricken daughter
Or your estranged friend
Or your angry activist
Or who you flirt with
make assumptions about
treasure then discard
come to then walk away from
break promises to
I’d rather be on stage
sharing journal entries
that somehow turned into
I’d rather find the emotional arch of this narrative and spill the intricate inner-workings of my spirit
for you, my audience,
sculpt a monologue out of this pain,
rather figure out if I should use this tone: (angry) or this one tone: (hurt),
rather experiment with movement then choose how I should hold my body in order to further illuminate this work
I would rather cry for you, here, upstage, center
than cry at 5am in a darkened kitchen alone searching for meaning that never comes.
I find myself up so late it’s early morning, carving words into air, plopping words onto computer, stringing thoughts together to share something
and still feel I like I’m missing something in these lines.
I search for what’s huddled in between these lines
and I can’t find it
asking Meaning to come home to me, wanted dead or alive
and shit is dead on arrival—bodybag.
I’m clutched between the arms of friends,
my tears soak orange sweatshirt,
they rock me,
every other thing makes me cry,
I have to go to work in the morning,
it’s already morning and I haven’t slept yet.
I’m the ultimate emotional exhibitionist. there are things I tell you that I don’t tell the woman I let inside me. and that’s real. the stage and me, we been in this for 11 years. we rock solid, so yes I trust this stage with my broken bits I hide from everyone else. cuz I know she got me
let me edit this poem right quick,
cuz I’d rather
let me run to rehearsal right quick,
cuz I’d rather
I discard that rhyme, rewrite that line, cross that out, extend that metaphor, let the fury quiver, let the sadness swell,
cuz I’d rather
I want to check my phone and see her name,
it’s not there.
I watch the Misfits.
in her arms I feel less and less beautiful and more and more like the needy bitch I can't stand,
my sex drive snuck out my panties and fled the country,
my smile jumped off the Manhattan bridge and dey resurrect like Jesus for special occasions,
I wonder what I’ll wear to her funeral,
maybe I’ll climb in the coffin with her, make sure she gets where she’s going okay
then come back to this stage to tell all y’all all about it.
the character I’m playing is me,
I’d rather be on stage than watch my love for you disintegrate with each insult you toss at me, while you tear away at me, bit by bit each day
with the fucked up things you say.
If I have to lose you, I’d rather lose you on stage,
if you’re going to die, I’d rather you die on stage beside me
so I can turn your funeral into a show interrogating mother-daughter dynamics from the grave
if you insist on misunderstanding me, let me respond via poem, via monologue, via choreopoembiomythography.
I can’t answer your questions in standard English, my feet waka, my heart tire. wetin I go do? I give you blood, I no have blood, I give you my heart, I lay my skeleton for road for you. peace of mind no dey, your satisfaction no dey.
you think I’m scientific with my emotions. you’re right. I analyze emotions like there’s a hypothesis to prove or disprove, gather evidence, write poems to articulate my findings and recommendations. then I perform them. this is who I am. who I am is wrong? really? not on this stage it’s not. and that’s why I fuckin love this fuckin stage.
that’s why I’d rather be on stage, because it’s my stage when I’m on it and even when I’m not.
stage be callin my name, sending me emails askin me when I’m comin back.
on this stage, I’m the point of reference for everything, not you, so if I wanna get scientific with it, that’s cool. I never feel too much or say the wrong thing, I’m perfect here. even my fuck ups make sense. my rage and insecurity are all okay. everyone here loves me. even when they don’t agree, they love me. if I don’t know what to say, I make a joke and people laugh. they get me. I can make my lines up as I go. I can lose control and this stage ain’t gonna judge me, I know this stage got me.
if you go break am,
make you break am for stage, so everyone go see,
make I have witness this time.