pain

WATCHING ALZHEMIERS PLAY OUT: MY GRANNY’S STRUGGLE

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As the night came to an end, we could not understand the change that came over her. While we snuggled deep into our bed clothes burrowing into the sofas as we told folk tales, she struggled to tie her headgear with feeble limbs. She was past caring what she looked like and I did not blame her much. We looked so healthy and young and in contrast, she was pale, feeble and dainty however strong willed. As she dressed in near darkness, my mind was flying through all sorts of possibilities. Next, she slipped her feet into her sandals and beckoned my brother to open the door and accompany her to the market. It was 10:12 pm! That was how I knew something was wrong. She could not remember his name and although her eyes were focused, she seemed to look right through us.
As she patiently explained that she had to purchase food items for the party my father was throwing the next day, our youngest started to cry. She didn’t really understand what was going on but she knew something was not right. It seems a cruel way for someone so kind and nice to be treated. It seemed as if God picked at random those to be tortured and then as a puppeteer, pull at their strings any time the fancy caught Him! My family was religious and I tried to understand the basic teachings that taught that God was kind not cruel and seeing my grandmother like this made it a bit harder to grasp. Thankfully, that night passed uneventfully. We took security seriously for fear that she could walk away, disoriented, without our knowledge someday. To forestall that we took to bolting doors and locking the gate at all times.
A few days after that incident, I was in charge and I fell asleep reading a novel while minding her. The house was quiet and she had been quite calm. Something told me to rouse from my slumber and I saw granny sitting on the waste basket she had upturned, urinating into it while she rummaged through the mess she had created right there in the dining room! I had to hold in my tears, it was of no use. Granny had lost her marbles and it was still too hard for all of us to take in.
Many weekends after when we thought she was having one ‘good’ day, my parents invited guests over and they wanted to see her. As they were welcoming the guests in, I walked into the living room to find my granny stark naked. This time I could not help the tears that flowed and I called for my mother to help dress her. Father had to engage the guests with needless questions in the passage.
For weeks, I have engaged myself by making research. I read up every available material accessible on the internet. Admittedly, one cannot always be patient but I feel sorry for her, for all the times that I lost it, for all the times I was grouchy and for all the times I wished her dead even if it was to save her that cruel fate. Some people still live in ignorance claiming that these folks are witches and wizards whose bad deeds have caught up with them. Of course we all had fears as a family but knowledge helped us through the dark spots. It was not always easy to be patient.
Granny is now late. And till she died in her sleep one morning, her ‘light’ still shined through…

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NOT AGAIN

I sit on the walk, troubled
like shards of glass, broken
footfalls from the forest, trampled
like pus from that leper, stinky.

the nursing breasts mother, heavy
with strife, which milk;
turned sour; ijebu-garri like
the tears come, bloody.

the price of the job, it’s value
my dignity;
told to sacrifice my eggs
not a chicken, goat rejected,
I have reached my teether
the end of my…

My Greed Haunts Me

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Things aren’t always as they appear.
Karma, the infamous virago with her creepy ominous persona has finally located me among the multitude of earth’s inhabitants she owes a vengeance, like it’s her business what happens between two mortals anyway. The time has finally come for me to have a taste of my own medicine and it definitely tastes far worse than Seven Keys or the tears of a banshee, or the bitter truth. The nastiest problem with karma is the unappeasable desire to turn back the hands of time and undo the undoable, to change a perception, or an action… or actions. For me it’s a combination of these. I made a mistake a long time ago. I just realized it and it hurts like hell.
It’s been about ten years but it seems like yesterday. I can remember the events so vividly and maybe that’s a bad thing, like when a repentant killer is haunted by lucid images of his victims. But the key word here is ‘repentant’, or in my case, regret. I try to live my life in such a way that no action would be so bad as to make me regret it later in life. But I can’t suppress the feeling for this one; no matter how hard I try, it’s glaring: we had met in high school, he was three classes ahead of me. He was sweet and fun and smart and his family was doing well financially. I couldn’t help falling for him. We were young and very much in love. I could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at me, the way he held me, how caring he always was towards me. Even when he was scolding me, it still had the silhouette of one who cared. I could see a future with him, a fairy tale marriage, four kids and a house with a white picket fence.
He was just fresh out of college and wanted to start his own business. I guess I was just used to the gifts and the special weekend treats from him and when it stopped because he had his cash tied up in an investment that wasn’t yielding anything short term, I got queasy; but that’s the least of my sins.
It’s quite simple, but silly anyway.
All my girlfriends had boyfriends that were doing well financially. They were constantly being ‘gifted’, with pretty clothes, shoes, perfumes; they were ‘top’ babes in the neighborhood and came with high maintenance tags on them. They were the wannabe ‘runs’ babes of society and they would drop a dude like a bad habit for a better offer on the spot. And that’s what I did next.
I fired my high school sweetheart on the street for a guy I had met a week before and who owned a Mercedes and had a flat and a well-paying job. I left my boyfriend hanging there, aghast, his fair face flushed, his heart crushed and I entered the Mercedes with my new-found lover. I saw my high-school sweetheart’s reflection on the side view mirror. It was all I could manage and that was the last time we were ever officially intimate.
Flash forward ten years.
I got married to the guy with the Mercedes and he continued driving the same Mercedes until it killed him last year with not much of an inheritance and four young mouths to feed. He had been laid off his job years back and had to take up odd jobs which eventually led to him developing a drinking habit, becoming abusive and sent him on a mad rave and drunken drive in his Mercedes the night he died.
On the other hand, my high school sweetheart became the CEO of a successful entertainment company, lives in his own house in the high class part of town and is married to someone that looks like a cut-out from a fashion magazine.
So you see where I am coming from and where I am now, and why my heart is heavy with depression and the headaches never seem to stop. It’s not quite because things didn’t relatively turn out as I had expected, it’s because things didn’t quite turn out as I expected because I had been so dumb. And I am reminded everyday of why I should have my name written on the world hall of fame for inanity; for leaving a piece of diamond that just needed a little patience for a chunk of speckled stone that had already run out of time. That’s enough anguish for one person. Karma finally got me, and I deserve it.

                        –ONOME FRANCIS

For a Confused Country

the melody of bullet rings in the ears
of children who gather to hold the
rope of unity yanked by axes in the
hands of men who bury the memory
of dawn in order to listen to the song
of storm – breaking the roofs.

the melody of bomb rips the hearts
and bodies into pieces of unidentified carcasses waiting for funeral in a country
where they tow coffins to where life
is a whisper in the wind

the fire of bomb rises
tonight in a city where the walls bear
the images of those who die without
names nor voices…

BRINGBACKOURGIRLS

BringBackOurGirls is the trend. We sorrow over the abduction of our gems. They are the flowers we nurture every day. They represent our collective struggles and days of hunger. We struggle to send them to schools – with the hope that they will soar and do us proud. They will come to pay back. They will remember us and their country. We hope that they will become good ambassadors. But this is a country where lives are like matchsticks. They have enslaved our daughters. We are still searching for the moon in the eye of the sky.

I ALSO SING

I also sing of BringBackOurGirls
in a house where bombers are
popular tenants

I also sing of BringBackOurGirls
in a country where bullets are
weevils that burrow the bellies
and murder the moon of a sad night

II

So I learn to write poems for those
who die without coffins
in a country where leaders
loot and litter the streets
with bones and blood
of those who forget their
names in the market of memory

Rafiat, a woman dies with her
children watching how they
pack their mother with blood –
robed attire –
as they carry our experiement
on the burnt bodies of those
with lost fingers, lost heads
and chopped legs

Julius, a shoemaker
struggles to nail the shoes
as the bombs bury shops
and streets

May they all rest in peace
together with their dreams

III

I also learn to hold roses
to the cemetery where
dust to dust is a slogan

even when the young die
dust to dust is still a voice
to be heard

IV

So if they bomb houses
where poets live

tell them to remember the books
they may not be able to turn into
ashes –

for we live in death

                          ***

So if they bomb the houses
where poets live with images
of their families

flipping
as they remember the country
that promises to award cups
of tears to us

as they remember the days
when lives are buried every
second as the precious faces
bow like tendrils in the path
of the wind.

So if they bomb the houses
of the poets

they will not be able to turn
our words into posters
beneath the stoves