All the ways I could have loved you (better)

I could have loved you (better)

In the morning, when you had asked me to lead you to the sun and I had only offered fragments of stardust.

In the night, a song was too much to give so in its place I proposed a subtle melody. (I should have given you the cathedral’s choir; ordered the saints to pipe through old hymns, for my darlings’ sake .)

In the groove that graced your forehead- all the many times I forgot to plant kisses in your shallow depressions, on your furrowed brows, between the softness of your lips.

In the creases of your neck and the flawed landmarks of your face, in the crevices of your backbone, in the cavity that carried your beautiful lungs.

Between the rhythmic contraction of every artery, after the loud thump against your breastbone, the cry for help in the music that was your relentless heartbeat. (I listened and danced distractedly; at the expense of your hurt, my feet found comfort. I danced to your music. I felt no shame. I could have loved you- better.)

In your weakest moment, when all you wanted was we and I was too selfish to extend even a portion of my body, too conscious of all the missing parts in me to offer refuge, too afraid to carry a weight heavier than my limbs. Oh all the ways I could have…

When I told you to “get over it”, the audacity in my voice was one with God.

In my ignorance; (in random utterances, I had missed the alarming vibrations in your vocal cords.)

When you came to me, your voice the sound of a dozen restless rivers looking for new sanctuary. In your moment of truth, your ascending had become your darkest night. I did nothing. Hypocrite. (I don’t forgive myself. I pretended to lose my voice so my heart would forget to tell the truth. I held your tongue, sat on your windpipe with my arms tied behind my back. I could have loved you better- why do you still insist of loving me? )

When all you had needed was a friend, but..

When..

(I am gasping for air now. This has quickly become a burden too heavy to bear. I need your forgiveness. I know now/ all the ways that I could have loved you/ better.)

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Buttermint (A short story).

When I was younger, I looked forward to growing up. I would wake up the following day wondering when I would ultimately morph into the woman I have now become. I had hoped I would look like my mother, tall, beautiful, with a striking figure and permanent red-tattooed lips. I would strut like her in futile attempts to practice my grown woman walk so that when the time came to use it, I would be an expert at making men fall to their weak knees. Every one of my male teachers, all a bunch of irritants, loved her. They would each take turns to watch me after school – I was always the last person to leave the premises because my mother was always late – and take the opportunity to talk with her when she finally came around to picking me up. Afterwards, they would make side commentaries to me, “Oh, your mother is very lovely.”

Yes, “Lovely”.

I would smile in return and forgive them for making me detest my life and school that much more.

They didn’t know she was married, or that there was another child locked up away somewhere in boarding school, and because her husband was never around to shadow her, they shamelessly flocked around her like hungry puppies waiting to be fed. One would say that they were able to “appreciate her beauty”.

She enjoyed it; she tried really hard to mask her pleasure when I was around there was always a smile dancing around her faux taut lips, waiting to break when my eyes weren’t watching. Her husband did not know how to love her like my teachers did, and even though it had been so distastefully done and had almost always been embarrassing to watch, I had allowed myself forgive her for loving it as much as she did. When she would ask me about Mr. Fredrick, my primary 4 math teacher who had been so obsessed with her, I would give her a satisfactory response. It was like stripping off layers of myself every time I had to sacrifice my comfort for her happiness, and it was not a pleasant feeling.

I did not like it at all.

I loved my mother – love my mother – dearly, but I needed her husband to love and guard her the way a shepherd would his sheep (you know? That Jesus type of love – unconditional and selfless and all that)

I prayed so desperately to grow up so that I would be free of that life (taking care of her feelings, monitoring her emotions) and just have mine alone to worry about.

That one night that I spent with my brother (he came in from boarding school) and my cousin sleeping in the room that we shared, is still vivid in my memory. It was most unfortunate because I had been fast asleep until the yelling and slapping and shoving against the walls. I remember waking up and looking down from the top of my bed (I shared a bunk bed with my brother) to see if my brother was awake. My cousin, a much older lady, shushed me and told me to go to bed, saying that everything was fine. The words rolled out of her mouth like honey sliding down a steep slope.

My heart would not stop beating fast, and I remember my hands wrapping around my neck as if to stop my abdominal content from creeping right out of my mouth.

My brother never woke up, he was as still as wood and I couldn’t even make out his face in the dark. Mine was wet, either from crying or sweating, and my cousin was sobbing uncontrollably –ironically still trying to convince me to go back to bed because everything was fine. At that point, I had stopped listening to her and slipped out of my bed slowly. I walked to the door and opened it to take a peek, catching the vicious punch that fell on my mother’s face. My cousin had proceeded to close the door in front of me, blocking my view with her body and saying sternly,

“Go back to bed!”

She slipped out of the room and I could hear her pleading with my parents.

“Aunty, the kids … the kids… Uncle please, you people should stop this.”

“Get out of my way.” That was my mother’s voice. I heard a loud thump as someone got shoved really hard to the sidewall whilst the aggressor walked on towards the kitchen. I heard the cling-clang melody of metal meeting metal. My cousin was shouting now,

“This is ridiculous! Aunty, please! … Aunty No!”

My father screamed like a woman – seriously – it was the shrillest, most alarming feminine cry I had ever heard from a man (and although I had always made fun of my brother in the past for screaming like a lady in time of freight, the genetic explanation for his anomaly made sense that night.)

It all ended so fast, so abruptly. Cousin was back in the room, sniffling and heaving heavily, concomitantly repeating, “Everything is fine now. You go back to bed.”

My brother never moved a muscle. I don’t understand why; our space had been too loud to sleep through.

When we woke up the following day, I watched my dad leave the house with a big bloody scar on his right arm. I could tell from the way it looked that the wound went deep. He caught me staring at it as I helped put his suitcase in the back seat. He looked at me and said,

“Your mother did this to me.” He brought it closer to my face as if to insist that I took a better look. I got a whiff of the sore. It made my tummy turn. “Look at it… No, I want you to look at it very well. Your mother stabbed me with a knife.”

“Bye Dad” was all I could muster as he entered the car, not giving me a second glance.

My mother sat all dressed up for church at the dinning table, arms crossed over each other, resting against the table in front of her. She couldn’t speak articulately because her right cheek was so swollen, so she spoke with a bit of a lisp. She gave me money and said, choking back tears,

“Amem, go to the mallam and buy me some buttermint. Just a pack.”

When I came back with the pack of buttermint, she ripped it open and took out a couple, offering me some. I shook my head, I was too sad to want anything and I couldn’t understand why after all of the trauma, her craving would be buttermint.

“Does it look that bad?”

“Your face?” It did look bad. It was swollen and red, and although she had tried to cover it with makeup, no amount of camouflaging could cover her shame. She was the ultimate victim of abuse and it was written all over her face.

“It doesn’t look bad at all.”

“Does it look like I have candy in my mouth?”

“What?”

“I know my cheeks are swollen and I’ve tried to get it to go down a little bit but it’s still slightly swollen.” I tried to make out her words as she struggled with getting them out, wincing before continuing. “So I want people to see me having buttermint when I go to church today. When they see me holding the pack in my hand, do you think they would think I just have candy at the side of my mouth?”

“Oh.” Befuddled by the concept of it all, I responded, “I think so ma. It does look like it.”

“Alright then.” I watched as tears rolled down her cheeks and choked back some myself. “I’m sorry that you had to see what you saw yesterday. I want you to know that I love you and I’m always here for you and your brother.”

“I didn’t see anything.” I assured her in a barely audible voice, folding my arms in between my thighs and staring down at my church dress.

We both sat there and waited together until my brother was all dressed up and ready to go. All through the day as she greeted church members and friends, she held on so tightly to her pack of buttermint, and I just kept wishing to be finally grown up, so I could eventually forget.

I did grow up, but it never happened.

To

Walk down an alley and listen for the birds breathing,
dying in their sleep.
Feel the rush of air coarse my hair and hear my follicles tingle in sublimate pleasure.

I need
Silence.

Like the mastery of a Panther’s pliancy to steal its prey,
The discipline in its walk,
The focus in its eyes.

Will I ever hear the foot steps of
Heartache?
Feel the symptoms crawl in like an army of weightless ants
before they
Infiltrate my organs and steal my voice
?

My organs.
I want to be so lost in a deep quiet,
That I am aware of my organs gossiping about secrets unknown to my aching knees and the soles of my feet.

My feet
My feet are bare as
they meets the golden sand on a beach.
An energy draws from the earth through my spine to the crown of my head
when dirt and dust caress my tightly-spaced toes.
I feel their embrace initiate several clarion moans
as they make love.

Because I dwell in a labyrinth,
I want to listen for my valves dilate,
So i can steal ideas from the spaces in my heart
Before they close up.

I want to perceive the force before the lightning hits;
I want to hear a discernible crackle before the thunder strikes.

I want to tell the world my story
Without having to move my lips.
Pull souls into my ribcage,
Feel their bodies melt into mine.
Embrace the wetness of their arms,
Forgive the inelasticity in the voices of those that call my name.

I want a silence that allows
Me
rest easy,
Even when their small heads pose internally against my chest.
My body readjusting to accommodate the truculency of their thumping hearts;
My eyes becoming their eyes.
My refuge becoming their home.

Home.
In the eyes of an old widow
Was the treasure I had sought for eons.

So I

mastered the sway of her dragging hips
And measured the spaces in-between
Every strand of her hair.

Silence in the form of an atrophying Angel.

Stillness in the glossiness of her eyes.

I need a silence that lets me dream.

Words: A Metamorphosis.

(To start this circus, this journey of wonders into the depths of word, spoken and written, said and thought, subsumed and formed into lances and salves, witch-brew and stolid whip is Oluchi, our first performer. Be not fooled by her coy smile and unassuming nature, within those smiling lips is a contortionist, twisting words around limb and spine, changing and reforming into something that is alien yet wholly familiar. The Faire Of Words Offers…)

 

WORDS: A METAMORPHOSIS

 

I knew once, words that never lied.

How they caressed the smooth lining

of her gorge

And enriched its peristalsis;

Flowed with the rhythm

of her waterfall;

Clung to her muscles like

Bloodthirsty leeches.

These are the words that fed

my waning humanity.

 

I will never forget you.

 

Words became memories of

milking cows,

Dwelling in barns that stunk of

my father’s regret and

fallen sweat from his aged back.

 

And although the wind was

his ashy hands

and Eve’s discontent,

(sunken in the crinkles on his forehead)

I let my face be buried in it,

I opened my mouth

Flared my nostrils

I drew in air and sand,

 

To live,

You must breathe

and to breathe,

you must suffer these lungs.

She had said

 

Truth. A reflection of the many vagaries of life

She had said

 

At least you had a father

Who freely loved you so.

These cows never got the chance

To be loved wholly.

And yet we reap from souls

That are yet to be self sufficient.

We must survive, but

Where is your conscience?

Where is mine?

She had said

 

Mine?  A gap.

Between war-thumping hearts

Of belligerent combatants

And solicitous hearts

of sacred nuns.

 

 You’re silly.

 

Her words

Simple truths;

My escape

when the sun pierced

and forgot to love me

like a descendant.

(I feel wrapped in porcupine skin)

 

Look down, but never forget to look up.

 

Her words

A stake

when my knee joints

started to creak

Like my father’s old backyard door

 

(I let it cloak my form)

Through my pores, I am permeated

With an undying love

Through my veins, I am pervaded

With a memory of fore saints

 

I will never forget you.

 

Different appearances.

A constant replacement

Of the true form

That is her oval face.

 

(Her visage, ever changing

My heart, ever breaking

Her voice, ever trailing

Her words, never changing.)

Write

Write

About the caged bird and its withering wings

how its coos began to fade

Like an old memory of love.

About its neck, the way your rough hands found comfort on its unblemished surface

How bumps and scars formed,

How those crevices started to feel like home.

Write.

About how I came to understand your vice,

And your

Misplaced priorities.

The lurking rigidity in your voice everytime I heard you say “I love you.”

The profanity of your deeds

The way your back creaked and curved like the spine of old books.

Write

Tell of how our silence became the alter you cried and worshiped on

How you shamefully used my absence as a shoulder to

Vommit

All the lies and secrets you held so tightly in your bowels.

Write

On the number of times I knocked

The number of times you stopped.

The number of times I pushed

The number of times you choked.

Write

About the caged bird.

Write

About the hunters gun

Write

About the feline eyes

Write

About collapsed lungs

Write

About us.

MY long haitus can be attributed to the excruciatinnng power of the voices in my head, and how they exhausted me,  and kept me silent. How they clogged my throath with filthy disillusions and heavy solidified  lies. I started to even believe that there was nothing I could do to save us. But you know what I have learnt in the last few days? The cure for any writers ailment is hidden in the dividing boundary of its pen and its paper. 

When you are exhausted, indignant, or stuck with a mind shrunken to a state of zero resurrection,

You reach for a pen and paper, a chalk and a board, a laptop, an adroid

You take it in your beautiful cabalistic hands, veins flowing with paranormal secrets,

You bloody write. 

Yours, and Hers.

Did you once stand with an uncomfortable displeasure at the reflection of you, as her hands moved gently down the curve of your nose, to the side of your lips, to your chin? Did the woman in the mirror flinch like a premature baby whose eyes meet light for the first time, who gasps for breath with the stricture that is its throat, whose life is barely a substance of existence?

Did you hate her so much, the woman in the mirror who looked back at you, gallingly so, and confirmed the raging thoughts in bottomless void of your mind; you are truly only black soot when compared to dust, only ten shades darker than wood burnt to ashes? Did your belly growl despicably, did your heart become a dimension of its own? Did your mind become absent of its body because your vision could only take in the disappointment that was the woman who moved in the mirror? What else is it that bothers you, perhaps the sound of your voice too?

Where did you learn how to direct daggers at your own heart, anyway? How to be your own critic and make war with your reflection?

Your body is worn with the struggle for perfection. It has been hurt by your fingers, your throat, and the scorn that colors your expression.  It is you, in combat with yourself.

You despise the friction of your thighs. How they willfully refuse to yield to your pressure, choosing instead to remain pillars of supple womanhood, of rain and mango and laughter; forgiving your trespasses and dancing you into a new dawn.

Your lips are brittle with hate from the prayers you send to heaven; to make this, and that, more this and less that; but the poison is in your own heart, your own eyes, the way they scan your body carelessly, like the lump of clay left over instead of the painstakingly crafted work of art that it is.

You deny yourself of breath to coerce your tummy into a perfection that it isn’t. You hate the roundness of it, the bulge that makes your clothes unsuitable, made for someone that is not you. But your body must speak, and you must learn to listen.

Have you felt the roughness of your skin lately, like sand paper or the coalescing of a thousand veteran widows in a room of crawling decay?

What is it about the bulging in your eyes that scares you, even though it has left a thousand men bent and broken at the wonder of what must be hidden in those organs?

What is it about the curvature of your eyebrows that makes you wither in ignominy, the way they curve fiercely like the bow of an avid hunter? The bushiness of your eyebrows, like a swarmed rain forest, hidden with treasures and creatures yet to be uncovered; with air and life, water and sand. What is it that upsets you?

You think that whatever you might have has been drowned by the spaces between your teeth, the fullness of your cheeks, the over zealousness of the hair that springs from your skin. You think it can only be lured out with things that are strangers on your skin. But who set the standard for perfection? And who made them the judge of your body?

If your lips are too full, leave them be. When they part, the world will come to bow at your feet and call you Malaika, angel, because of the wisdom laced even in the brokenness of your words.

A woman is a goddess, and her body, a Jewish temple, a sophisticated mantra with strings and coils of humming luminous voices amidst the quiet throaty groans.

That roughness, that flatness, that roundness, that sharpness; it is the you that has been made for you, the you that you must learn to love.

Peace isn’t anywhere if it isn’t on your skin first.

 

So this is our long awaited blog post! Tiwa (twitter handle @Douxxe) and I met a few months back and I asked her to write with me, because I thought she was that awesome (Love you Tiwa mama). This is one of those pieces that I will always hold dear to my heart, truly. Let us know your thoughts, please. x