My Mother’s Day

My mum told me a story
of what I could be: anything
that my heart so dreamed.
She told a good story
with the way of an actor playing a story
with cries, a smile, and a host of poses
of how I could live with stars and heav’nly bodies
guiding me with a bit of algebra and a pound of Archimedes’.
My mum told me a story
of what I was, am: everything
I needed to be with no wit less.
She sold me the story
of how I could be myself without a sorry
(although sorry I would be if I did not have a clean bed!)
of how I had the rights to my own story
(with a reminder that God is the best of all stories).
My mum told me a story
that I long to tell too
with her chuckles, her frown, and my own host of poses
with a bit of algebra and half a pound of Archimedes
(perhaps Ṣóyinká too)
a story of strength and hope
that I’ve only now retold
for today, My Mother’s Day.


a daughter’s oríkì

by her mother who waited for her

of my own blood
that flows as the river
Ògùn, knowing and fierce that
Olúmọ’s stones tremble.

Olúwa ta mí l’ọ́rẹ!
and He graced her with a bow
that stretches from ear to ear
and gleams against skin dark as orógbó,
showing a glimpse of His abode.

…re mi mi re mi mi re…
her voice speaks
in the same rhythmic tone of half a scale
and a half word of wisdom
of Ọ̀ṣun, Mọ́remí, Màámí

ọmọ Àdùkẹ́
ọrẹ oníye lórí
tí a rán
láti orílẹ̀ ọ̀run wá.

ọkọ ìyàwó jídé

for Ọpẹ́

where is our ọkọ ìyàwó?

the bride has been beside herself
with expectation and a pout
straightening her ivory laces
again, pondering, on end,

“where is the ọkọ ìyàwó?”

the enigmatic ọkọ ìyàwó.
or so the bride swears:
plying us with tales
of his playful wit
following spectacular shows
of bravery and softness. but,

where is this ọkọ ìyàwó?

the bride has made a stew
of green vegetables, fierce red
crayfishes, a number of peppered
African Giant snails, dices of plush
cowhide, and kind chunks of cattle tripe
with yam pounded with fierce gentleness,
not waiting for the gifts of live goat and palm oil,
the tubers of yam that her in-laws will bring. so,

where is her ọkọ ìyàwó?

do i hear drums?
aren’t those excited cries
of “Ekáàbọ̀,
ṣé dáadáa lẹ dé,
a tí ń retí yín”
welcoming guests?
hmm, ọkọ ìyàwó jídé
(the cock’s crow bears witness!)
to take our bride at last.

the coconut men of La Boca

for Pedro el cubano of La Boca, Cuba

La Boca is full of coconut
skin men who will not
allow a “no” to their
vamos a dar una fiesta. ¿vienes?” their
bare smooth muscled chests
is a king of tests
I say! their salsa
of beats causes me to sway in salsa
feats. that, or I am even more
moved by la dulce boca
and everything else of these coconut men.

they flaunt their fish
a thigh long and I wish
to taste of their boasted chef
grill, enjoy my coconut self.
but I am a mujer of sound
mind and I know more than a pound
it weighs, this sense so common
that I’ve got. so “no” to “come on!”
and “no” again, a fifth time,
to coconut drinks with men
of La Boca. Oh, la boca!

why does the mouth want!
why do these men vaunt!
the sea. coconut trees. and
la música, with a band
of men with salsa hips,
who drip miel from their lips!
“Pedro” of coconut skin and a glitter in his eye
“pass me la bebida de coco”, oh my!
por favor”. the secrets of La Boca
shall sleep here, between the sea
and la boca de Temi.

shall we say

for the many faces of KCBC

shall we with our lips say,
“our souls are by a may
plucked on the telyn deires
of thumbs fair as a bebe’s
palm and gángàns beat
our hearts in pace with
cascaras that sway in time and
the tabla odd pairs that command
dusky slender and plump leg bellies
shielded by ṣòkòtòs and zanis,
saris, that hide chests blends of oak,
coffee beans, caramel, and coke”

like some would swear to that
we are formed by names that
speak, in Kingongo, Luzolo and bring
us, as the Efik would say it, “Ukpong
(sometimes they tell of missed kin
perhaps birth on a Tuesday in
Kumasi as was “Abena”)? do you hear
the chants, the ballads, and the tunes that they dare,
of how we live by warm bread and mercimek çorbasıs,
biryani today, ceviche tomorrow”, the verses
sung so feverishly over loud belches
amidst morsels of fufu and sighs from bellies

bearing mufete of tints
and stale dark brown bara briths
leftover, floating in rum, from last night?
but even they know the breath in us ain’t
latino african american asian,
En no caribbe-an european australian.
shall we not say, “we are
of a living Father,
He who is God
(kin through Jesus)”?

a man i know

for Justin

i know a man, although i could name more than few,
whose dark curled roots do gleam, as freshly-tarred ground,
fiery suns that mock those days, those of pour-
ing rains, that prove the blues. his brown hands ’round his drum
they beam up, down, up, down, up, down again fashion-
ing tones, solemn, jazzy, hmmm, frantic tones, that drown
the fervent beats his bosom drums. this man i know.