Sunday, September 25, 2011

letters and words and paragraphs.

I wasn’t expecting that I’d write you. I’m not all those others. with the names picked out already. I’m the eccentric auntie who comes and goes as she pleases. not the hold you after your nightmares one. not that one.

my body has betrayed me. cultivating cravings for children I swore I’d never bear. I don’t know what to do with these desires to have and raise them. my body making choices for me my mind never consented to.

I like heels. I love my purses. I don’t want to carry those diaper bags and strollers and baby car seats and this wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m not supposed to feel this way. feel like you and I are supposed to know each other. like I’m supposed to teach you things and hold you. and tell you your other mother loves you, she’s just being stubborn right now. I’m not supposed to see us all around the dinner table. all the sun shining. all the beautiful meals.

and I can’t understand why this is happening. why I want them now when I knew I wouldn’t. this is too much.

she doesn’t know I want to have her babies and I don’t know how to tell her. all these tears. I can’t. I’m not supposed to be a mother. I’m not supposed to arrange playdates, pick the best schools, baby-proof my house, teach them about gender and twist their hair. this is not the life I’ve seen for myself. I’m not supposed to be a grandmother someday. I can’t feel this way. and I do. and there’s nothing you can do when your body has made up her own mind about who she wants to carry. and what have I been carrying all these years? the belief that I don’t know how to be a good mother? maybe somewhere I gave up on family. real family. family that is always there. that shares meals and teaches you things and forgives.

I want to understand what’s happening to me. but I don’t. I feel like the things I knew are changing. I thought I’d spend my always in New York and now I’m leaving. thought my heart would stay broken forever and it didn’t. thought I’d never have babies but my body wants them. my minds says no and my body says what she says.

what am I supposed to say or do? my body wants to be pregnant. I’m a dyke who doesn’t want babies. tell me what to do about that. tell me how to move through my day with the children inside me singing so strong I can feel the vibrations on my skin. I just want to lay here and cry. I don’t know what’s happening to my own body. I’m confused. before we even talk about the logistics of babymaking (sperm, the role and level of involvement of the father and and and…), I am confused. who am I? I know I’m a poet and a sister and a daughter and a cousin and a niece and an auntie. I never thought I’d be a mother. ever. never.

I meant this as a letter to you. all you. singing in me songs so strong I feel vibrations on my skin. how do you know this song? that I haven’t taught you yet? songs we made up one Sunday. songs you taught me.

I can’t. I cannot do this. I cannot change everything about my life. I can’t. the world will not drastically drop in population if I don’t have babies. and then…I so tired of resisting my body’s desire to have you. I don’t know what will be. or if we will be. but I’m tired of resisting even considering you.

I don’t know what to say to you. this is not the most heartwarming welcome you could have received, I know. I’m sorry. I guess I just want you to know beforehand. where I’m coming from. and incase we never meet I guess we’ll always have these letters and words and paragraphs.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

i used to be a poet

I used to be a poet.

I used to know how to do this. didn’t even need to walk up to the mic.

rocked that shit from my seat, off stage, from the doorway, on the train, wherever.

now I question everything.

I think too much.

I used to be a poet.

too much of a poet to be self-conscious. validation irrelevant. compliments unnecessary. I knew what I said was the truth so I ain’t need anyone to agree. things were simpler when I was younger.

I went on tour because I felt it. I didn’t market anything, I just showed up.

now flyers and list servs and.

I used to be a poet. with the fury and the love, the tenderness was implied. the love amplified.

now I feel intellectual, almost theoretical,

been in this so long, the memories of where I been take over. the future. the supposed to, the what ifs take over my mind, demand attention.

insecurities center stage. shaking and tears near. tears in me.

unclear. why am I saying this again? are you hearing me this time? I’ve said this so long, been performing this poem so long, it’s who I am now.

but that’s not who I am.

it takes so much to perform. it never used to take this much. it was just what I did.

it was all so simple. I didn’t think about it.

I don’t want to think. I just want to make art. without thinking and wondering and making sense of and figuring out and strategizing.

I just want to rock shows. that’s all. shows. late shows, early shows, sweaty, dark shows, outdoor shows, freestyle poems in the middle of dance parties, rhyme with djs, let the beatbox move me to move me to move you. that’s all I want.

all this “I should do it like this…or that.” I can’t.

shit is oppressing me.

I want to rock the poem about my father and leave it on the stage.

I don’t want to carry it anymore.

my mother leaving.

my father leaving.

my whole family leaving. is fine.


naw, son, for real, I’m good.

I just want to write about it, dance about it, rock shows about it and leave it on the stage. I don’t need to carry that.

carrying that is what feels heavy on my back, has me doubting my own gift.

and I’m gifted. I don’t have time to doubt my own gift, only time to feel it, be it, give it.

I’m wasting time with these insecurities.

they trying to take over. I feel them creeping. they hungry for my smile. want to eat my peace of mind.

I won’t feed them.

I won’t set the table and make a plate for them with my thoughts, my wringing hands, my doubting the love of everyone loving me.

insecurities creeping everywhere overrunning the garden of my life with plants I never planted. whose fuckin seeds are these? I don’t want this shit.

I used to be a poet.

I used to do it so pure my voice cried words onto the mic.

it was so pure. too pure for there to be room for all the pain of what if and I should and I’m done with it. I’m done with what if and I should.

I want to rock pure like that. step up to the mic with the words trembling from my chest,

freshly memorized,

soul still shaking in my chest and holding me up tall to share this fire.

love rocking me steady.

that’s why I love poetry. when the poetry is raw and roots are tumbling out of your mouth.

that’s what I love.

when I was a poet, I was a poet.

if I am poet, then I will be a poet. without all the bullshit.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Photo Credit: Rebecca Emmanuelle
Pictured: Etaghene + Adaku Utah

the tears are persistent so I’ll write.

I’m performing my one woman show for the first time in 2 years in 14 days. in it is so much that scares me and moves me, that holds me and makes me want to run, so much tenderness, anger, joy, wonder, discovery. the show is me offering all I am to all of you. that’s some scary shit. I’m scared. why do I do this? why do I write all this sacred down? why do I write all the fears down then insist on sharing? I want to be confident. but I’m not. it’s not like I haven’t rocked shows before, traveled before, shared this work before. but the show is different now than it’s ever been. I’m different now than I’ve ever been. and I want you to get it. to get me. and I want to be able to relax. I’m not relaxed. it’s the kind of day that you need India.Arie to sing to you and tell you it’ll be okay.

I don’t know what reassuring words I need to hear or that there are any. I spoke to Adaku and she gave me that still wise earth love that she always brings me. and I think I feel better. but I am all kinds of scared and the tears are insistent today. quiet like rain that sneaks up on you.

at rehearsal last night with my director there were tears and laughter. I love that woman—a sister, a comrade, an amazing artist. she is so loving, so dope, so insightful. it’s deep to look in the face of your own life and see for the first time what you didn’t know was there reflected back at you in and amongst your words, your verses, your paragraphs, your pages. words you wrote revealing a you you didn’t even know about. and then figure out how to share those truths with hella people. and I know why I do this. I do this because I was born to. I don’t second-guess that. but this shit it hard. and I want to be ready. and I want to do right by the truths of my life. and I want more time. and I need a vacation. a retreat. to sleep in. I want pancakes. and—

the tears are like a lake in my eyes. still as summer in the middle of somewhere that people only visit when they want reflective solitude. still as that.

it’s deep because the only difference between “sacred” and “scared” is the placement of 2 letters. okay then.

Monday, March 21, 2011

!!!!!!! {tour diary}

Photo Credit: An Xiao

I’ve been busy. I’m starting my tour diary now before I hit the road because let me tell you, everyday is planning for then. and what I do now is just as much a part of the tour as being on stage in Johannesburg. incase you ain’t heard, I’m in the midst of booking my one woman show, Volcano’s Birthright{s}, alllll ovvvverrrr the worllldddddddd! this is so exciting! and so much work, lordess, lordess, it’s a lot of work. my days are: wake up, check email, brush teeth, get dressed, respond to emails during commute to work, go to work, call venues/folks, respond to emails during lunch break, come home, write/respond to emails, make calls, schedule in-person and phone meetings around tour-related ish that happen during lunch and before and after work. somewhere in there I eat and sleep. I love booking in different time zones because I can call them at all kinds of hours and they’re still open. booking is a detailed, annoying, fulfilling process. there are days I want to call someone and yell: “WE GOT THE VENUE!!!” but I don’t know anyone else will get what that means. you have to be in it, day to day, to get the significance of finally booking a venue after a month of: “what about/well maybe/I’m not sure/I’ll get back to you/what are the dimensions of the stage again?” if you had that back story, you’d know why I’m so fuckin excited to have that venue locked in. that’s kind of why I want to write this—to take you on this journey with me, to show you the inside of it.

what’s what as of right now: we got the tour launch booked. the tour begins in June in BROOKLYN!!! (celebratory shot fired)—I’ll be giving a talk about my one woman show and performing excerpts of the show at Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturdays. I am BEYOND excited about this! the west coast premiere is also booked, the show will be in San Francisco in July. I am so happy to be returning to the Bay! I’m in conversations about Philly, LA, Malibu, Boston, South Africa and my beloved Nigeria. I’m also working on a fundraising campaign for the tour, more info on how you can support the dream coming soon!

in the midst of all this, what sustains my spirit is the understanding that every show I’m booking has already happened. I already performed in Jo’burg. I already shook my soul in Edo, I already performed a soulful, sold out show in San Francisco. that future already happened. all I have to do is get from here to there. the dream is guaranteed. this sustains me. re-understanding time in this way and moving in the world AS IF—as if everything I dream is so. as if it is so. this takes most of the pressure off. and I keep moving. everyday I re-inspire myself, remind myself of why I’m doing this, trust my gut and know that the desire to share my story comes from a beautiful place. a place so beautiful the universe can’t resist conspiring with me to bring that dream to fruition.

I heart this quote: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” ~ Paulo Coehlo

my days are hella full. like hella full. I mean the seams of my days are busting. and I love it. I still make time to dance. I still make time for friends. I still make time to watch netflix and chill and eat good food. self-care is wo/mandatory.

I haven’t even started rehearsals yet. yooo……!!!

more soon, xxxo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

mental illness has never been my problem

photo credit: al janae hamilton

mental illness has never been my problem. I’m mentally stable to the point of being emotionally logical—I could write a thesis about my feelings for any given person in my life complete with bibliographies and case studies. I’m not trying to be funny. it’s true.

I’ve been depressed. there have been times when I was so depressed I fuckin worried myself, wanted to tell someone to come watch over me and make sure I was okay. (I’m okay.)

it’s the most heartbreaking thing to watch your mother lose herself in her own depression. it’s a pain I can’t put words to. it hurts so much, I’ve stopped feeling. I’ve just shut my feelings off, sent them to go shudder and huddle into themselves in a faraway country. she says really mean things to me. and doesn’t remember. she disowned me a week before Christmas. told me she never wanted to speak to me again. then she called me from Nebraska, thousands of miles from home, wanting me to bring her back home. she didn’t remember telling me the things she told me that hurt me so deep I was walking around like a zombie for a week. she didn’t fuckin remember the words that devastated my soul.

she calls me—crying. angry. happy. regretful. depressed. yelling. whispering. sometimes she goes through all these emotions in one conversation. sometimes she hangs up on me. sometimes she cries. sometimes she blames me. sometimes she wants me to forgive her. sometimes she thinks I’m her perfect daughter. sometimes she blames me for everything. sometimes she thinks I’m her savior. but never is she my mother. she hasn’t been my mother in years. I’ve been mothering my mother for years. she’s someone else. my mother is gone. you know her? you don’t know her. the things my mama taught me…that woman, who taught me how to sew, who held me when Aymi died, who always made sure I knew I was Nigerian, knew where we came from and was proud, that woman who used to make the best egusi soup on either side of the Atlantic, that woman who taught me how to be funny, that woman. my mama. my mother. she’s gone. so fuckin gone. depression took her. paranoia took her. the pain of losing everyone she ever loved, except me, took her. the whoever and their army that she’s convinced is after her took her. maybe her soul is buried with her mother. or with her dead son, my brother. or maybe the pain of being apart from Naija done broke her heart proper. she won’t listen to me. I’ve tried to save her more times than I’ve tried to save myself. cape with the s on my chest. I’ve ran relay races passing the baton to myself, running and running, trying—and I can’t. I can’t give her mind and pride and laughter and joy and life and will to believe in herself back to her. someone stole her from her. if I knew where to go to get her back, I’d go get her back so I could give her back to herself. and have my mama again. do you know how much I need a mother? how many times I want to call a woman who knows me, from breast feeding to baby pictures to puberty to high school dances to college admissions essays to graduation day, and say “mama, tell me why she broke my heart?” and have her comfort me and tell me my wife is somewhere looking for me. do you know how much I want to go home and have her make me a plate of my favorites and not have to tell her how to cook anything because she knows? because her hands making that meal for me my whole life is why it’s my favorite, is why I can’t have it any other way? do you know how much I miss home? I mean the home we made in this country—our home away from home.

I miss our plates and silverware—is that weird? I miss my mama’s silverware and that small kitchen with the blue carpet and delicate little curtain, brown cabinets and old stove. I miss our broken old school 1980s tv, on top of which our new school (well, now it’s old school too) tv sat. the tv we watched benny hill and eastenders and guiding light and the young and the restless on. I miss the glass dining room table where we ate every dinner together everyday of my entire childhood, except the years I was in Nigeria.

do you know what it’s like to watch your own mother disintegrate before your eyes? lose herself and lose so much weight she makes a dandelion seem heavy in comparison? as I write this, the tears are coming and I refuse to let them fall. not again. I’ve cried so many tears, I just won’t anymore.

and then they wonder why I’m hard. they do—the women I love. they call me hard, say I won’t open up. of course I am and of course I won’t. if I love you and you break, like I loved my mama and she broke, how the fuck am I supposed to survive that?

mental illness, depression, paranoia. none of these things are my problem. none of these things effects me. I’m mentally stable. to the point of being emotionally logical. no matter how angry I am, I’m like a lawyer with my emotions—organized and eloquent. I could take any argument to the supreme court and I would win. I’m not like her. they tell you about mental illness and depression. in commercials and in magazine advertisements. they don’t talk about how much it fucks you up to watch the person you love vanish before your eyes, swallowed by a world you can’t see and can’t change. no matter what anyone says, I’ll always feel I haven’t and didn’t do enough. I’m not depressed. but I have plenty of sadness. I carry my own sadness and guilt that I can’t save her from her suffering.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

this is a dangerous poem

Photo Credit: Charla Harlow

the kind I promise to keep to myself so I can be more honest with the page

I’ve opened up

(this sounded better in my head, in the shower, free styling, hold up, let me just fin—)

I saw your name today

I saw the place on the piece of paper

with my poem on it

where you wrote your phone # and name down

for the first time all those years ago.

I adore you still and it tears me apart still

this loneliness is so lonely because no one understands and no comfort comforts me.

I have more eulogies to write

for my dead friendships and relationships

than there are grains

of jollof rice

in all of the Naija Delta

when they come to my funeral,

if they come to my funeral,

they will whisper bad things about me inside the paper thin walls of their skulls

they will call me a bitch


they will call me stubborn and unforgiving

it will be true.

there are only so many cliffs you can jump off of on faith


and walk away from unscarred

that shit makes you hard






if you promised to jump with me

but I look up from the bottom of the cliff

and see you

at the edge of the precipice

walking inland

I’m not who I used to be, I don’t know where she went

I used to be nice.

this is a dangerous poem because I have to write it and I don’t know how to.

all this pain churning in me, I articulate and narrate the intricacies of this ache to friends, they’re sympathetic, some: empathetic, some: deeply compassionate, some: politely

offer me their best “it will get better” speech

but it doesn’t, my love

we just forget

that’s not better. that’s forgetfulness.

I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what I want you to say to make this better

when you’ve loved one person

and then they’re gone

there’s nothing to say

this poem is so dangerous it says frightening things,

causes racial poem profiling, makes you shiver and

clutch your imitation Louis Vuitton clutch

as each word inches closer into your personal space.

this poem is socially awkward

and bad with boundaries

walks away without making the first move

this poem won’t call you the next morning or listen to your stories

this poem is dangerous cuz she treats you as well as you’ve treated your worst


this poem shares secrets:

like missing your mother, I miss her.

I don’t believe in happy endings and I don’t think it gets better

I don’t pray and I don’t feel me anymore

sometimes I don’t believe in God

I want to be held and can never find the words to say that

except in dangerous poems and on stage

I don’t have peace, I’m not patient

I’m not self-centered enough and I’m too ill-mannered

I lost something somewhere,

I don’t know what and I don’t know where

but I’m pretty sure it’s everything

I want to run away

to Paris

to Harare

to London

I won’t let you in. I’ll let you think I did

but I won’t.

I don’t trust you and I never will.

I only like you half the time.

I want a big wedding but I don’t believe in love anymore

I want kids but I don’t want to give birth or raise them.

maybe I could just parent for 10 key life-changing moments—

okay: 11.

I think some men are cute. seriously. if they could fuck like a dyke, I’d holla.

this is a dangerous poem because you should know better

than to expect me to ever

write down the worst of it.

I have more to say but my homemade granola is sitting in my yogurt beside me,

side eyeing me,

getting soggy.

I’m gonna go watch cartoons.

Monday, January 17, 2011

the hard part

photo credit: y. etaghene

I still believe in you. maybe it’s foolish. I feel foolish, because of the two of us, I’m the only one who believes. when did love become so transient? when did our love become so fickle? I don’t care about all the fucked up ways a heart can break, all I care about is the love. our love.

this is why I stay up, waiting for one song to say something to me that I can respond to. with a musing, wondering poem like this. I listen to this song like I would your breath. I’m not mad. anymore. It would be easier if I had anger in me.

there are days like this where I laugh with a friend. I watch how in love my friends are with each other. love is everywhere. a friend is getting married, another just let herself love again. and I look at myself. my life. my heart, broken. the nights aren’t the loneliest, they’re just when I’m my most still. the days are the hardest. people ask me how I am. I don’t want to lie, but beloved, I don’t have the energy to tell the truth. the truth is without you, something is missing. ever since I met you, whenever I’m without you, something is missing.

I don’t understand. I still believe. I don’t understand why or how I still believe. even now. even after you’ve disappeared, even after you’ve walked away, even after you’ve left in every possible way, over and over. broken your promises. and acted so selfish I can’t even recognize your name. even after you’ve taken every beautiful word you’ve murmured, proclaimed and written to me and twisted it into a lie. even now.

I feel foolish and I don’t understand. I will never understand how you could walk away from our love and not even leave me a post-it note explaining why. I can’t say your name the same. I don’t know you anymore.

I will love another woman, that’s not the hard part. the hard part is she won’t be you. but maybe the best part is that she won’t be you.


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