Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau
(For Victoria, Uyo and Laura)
إنا لله و إناللهرجئ (inna lillahi wa inallah-e-raji’oon), how do we survive a city settling the bodies of fragments, searching for truths in the castle where memories are scattered on the walls like graffiti, in a song that tastes like dirge? I remember this city, a land of promises, where boys wear their hopes around their neck and make home in a community of sand and dust, and stars walk into dark rooms to paint dreams like children. I remember this road that takes mothers into the body of coppers, girls into the nostrils of lovers; there is a garden of roses we must not pluck for the decoration of homelanders’ burials.
إنا لله و إناللهرجئ (inna lillahi wa inallah-e-raji’oon), someone is wearing a mascara of tears and her body is sending a signal of loss.
إنا لله و إناللهرجئ (inna lillahi wa inallah-e-raji’oon), we must all search into fallen walls for epitaphs. Someone must have said something about leaving.
Your daughter ran to me one afternoon after a boy broke her heart. She wore your skin like absence and carried her body like pain and she needed a mother for healing, then you ached in my bones like leukemia. I never prayed for a miracle for you. You happened to all the boys, and maybe girls too; that speaks your language. That language of my father and mother and those girls who come visiting with skimpy smiles and underfed feelings I do not understand. You know how it is to have sought for a safe place different from your mother’s back, where you were tightened like freedom of speech in a country where the media is sham, or the sprouting chest and flowery eyes of first loves, where nothing is sure and no secrets are safe?
I lived in the city outgrown by the numbers of trees that die in dreams, so my parents were too busy trying to rebuild the city, trying to regrow trees, trying to paint the roads with asphalt. There was no time to see the shape of my heart or my handwriting or what I have written or what I have to say, or what it is I blink in my eyes every time I blink my eyes.
Our church is two miles away. Before it’s great door I wrote my first poems, and I showed them to the girls who taught me to laugh at myself. I never really meant a thing to myself, other than moonlight. Lurking behind a bright sun, I wore my skin in vintage. It was too much for me to bear, and I wrote another poem and laughed at myself some more. I tried my incompetence again and again and again just for laughs. One day a group of boys talked about a woman who lives in a city built in blue walls, and I sought her out. She asked me to define myself and what I write, and I asked the god to teach me to breathe. She touched my eyes to see, and my nostrils inhaled my memories. I am breathing. I am breathing.
Someday, we shall return here, and we shall sniffle the ground for paths we cannot reincarnate in our heads, and that day, we shall crumble our bodies and fit our memories into bottles of beer and sing and sing and seek that we lose our ways and track home (never) again. Old tales will cower on the rocks. The sun will bathe my father’s body at seashore, and my mother’s eye will be a beach with tears come to wave. I will wonder how men float then ‘unfloat’ in the water that bathed them from birth.
Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau is a poet from Nigeria.