Letters to Ayoola (3)

Ayoola, ore mi,

A thousand oceans and broken telephone wires could not separate us. As I usually do, I have mused and mused over your last careful and cursive letter. Perhaps, I should have celebrated the coming of a new life by going through the traditional fanfare. Tears of joy. A congratulatory call. More tears. Anticipation. Rather, your impending birth has had me contemplating our beloved Orisha. I’ve thought about it often enough to say it: this new life must be floating somewhere between orun ati aye. Are you impatient? I cannot bear the anguish of waiting or more still, my absence.

Between soothing tears and building broken bridges, I have been praying for light. When the darkness engulfed my blindness I found it easier to shield my body. I enjoyed the invisibility and I would sometimes gracefully dance between the uneven shadows I found. My own was lost but there were many I found along the way. But I still prayed for the light. I prayed fervently and fearfully, knowing that my body- naked, shapeless and contorted would be seen- be unveiled-
to whom?
These questions, as do thoughts of how many tears paradise can carry, elude me daily. Where do we find the strength to build when stones so quickly turn to sand? Supposing I lost my footing, which I constantly do–which of the two worlds would accept my heavy, sinful bounty of a body? Ore mi, I am still falling: 

Ore mi, I am still falling: 

I don start again, abi? I know. All my love to Baba, at long last, some sense in the title. And to my beloved, yes, mine: whisper not only the beauty but also the pure evils and maladroits of our Great Care-Taker. If you won’t, I shall, and you know that is a promise

To more days of Sangria sweetness.

Yours,

 

Fruit of love for Mine

The one that got away but returned to the troubled hearts waters,
stubborn one,
complex and
Mine.
My beautiful one- unborn,
rebirthed and evolving.
When shall this fruit ripen?
Let’s dance around the realities of
our becoming.
Were we only dreaming
when we lost
our paths
and forged
ahead to
the unknown?
Arms locked,
bodies in conversation,
praying mercy.
Mercy, mercy, mercy mercy mercy
I pour on your crown-
Solemnly in fervent wait
for the fruition of these waitings
and smooth endings.
My beautiful one- unborn,
rebirthed and evolving.
When shall this fruit ripen?

Politics of Black Hair (part 1): Black Hair and Petting Zoo’s

As a young girl my mother’s decision to make me wear my hair in it’s natural state (without any chemical products) largely made me an anomaly amongst my caucasian friends but a symbol of celebration for its length and volume amongst my black friends.

I would grow up to expect the “oohing” and “aahing” of non-African’s at the sight of my hair, followed by the occasional, “can I touch it?” or “how often do you wash it?”. I will admit, some experiences were better than others but not one left me feeling necessarily good about myself or the attention that my hair provided me simply because I did not see individuals of other races being riddled with questions about the “management” of their hair. Disclaimer: In making these statements, I do not attempt to speak for the entire Black race or individuals who share hair textures that deviate from silky and straight. Although my experiences concerning my hair stem far beyond the time I have spent in the United States, I will have to admit that living in the US has opened up me to several new dimensions of the black hair discussion.

The attention that black hair garners whether in it’s natural state or in other styles such as wigs, crotchet braids or braiding extensions has often left me weary. Weary of explaining the “how’s” and the “whys”, weary of defending that black women’s decision on how they choose to wear their hair should be left to each woman as an individual and not a collective and weary of feeling like an animal at a petting zoo. The general inability for black hair to simply exist without question or analysis is frustrating, to say the least, and although there is so much discussion on the topic, so much ignorance still pervades the issue. In her internationally acclaimed novel, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrates the difficulties that the protagonist, Ifemelu faces in deciding how to wear her hair and the consequences that arise from either wearing it naturally or using chemical products. Although Adichie helped to provide a platform for the discussion of the politicization of black hair, much more needs to be done. So my advice to anyone who feels the urge to grab a braid or quiz a black woman about the texture of her hair is to Stop! you are not at the petting zoo.Black Hair Collumn

ImmiGrant diaries

He wasn’t coming. I could feel it, first in the air—the way the vicar’s musky cologne hung heavily in the stuffy office cubicle. Then I felt it in the shaking of my hands and then blood-pumping thud in my ears and chest. Nicholas was not going to show up.

“Ms. Bamidele, I’m afraid there are many other couples waiting to be officiated this morning and I will not be able to wait much longer.”

He seemed like a friendly-enough man, in his mid-60’s. He was mostly bold with a modest patch of graying-to white hair hedged around his round head. Probably underpaid and accustomed to expecting little or nothing from people. Beyond his smiling face, I could feel the sadness in his eyes –the fatigue from an unfulfilled life. Once again, he gave an urgent glance at the lopsided walk-clock on the opposite end of the cramped cubicle. In seven minutes, she would have to leave the cubicle.

Clearing his throat, the Vicar, began, “Ms. Bamidele, I do hate to pry but I have witnessed such situations too often in my life-time not to—

The shame of the entire experience forced me to cut him off before he could finish the statement I had been fervently praying I would not hear on this day.

“Vicar James, I do apologize for taking your time like this. I do realize that this might seem like a typical immigrant story but I can assure you Nicholas and I are in it for the long haul. I am sure he will be here at any point.”

The desperate words even seemed hollow in my own ears. Who was I fooling? The vicar simply smiled weakly and nodded.

And so here I was, a 30-year-old Nigerian woman engaged to the man of her dreams who was thousands of kilometers away. Even when Segun’s visa to the United Kingdom had been denied for the sixth time, I could not have imagined that this would be it. That I would be sitting here waiting for a strange man to come and sign a marriage certificate, making me his wife, in order that I could ‘legally’ remain in the country.

I suddenly felt very nauseous. Very nauseous and very alone.

On this Separation

Mother, now that we are separated by these large waters-

And by crackling fibre lines-

that sometimes transform your humming voice into unfamiliar muffles.

But Mother,

Now that we are separated-

I feel somehow unable.

You have never asked me to carry your burden

But suddenly

I feel heavy.

The weight of the unknown-

balances unsteadily above

me.

It is only now-

that I realize

I have been navigating this world through

you.

And Mother, I am ashamed to say-

that all this while

I secretly thought it was

you-

who had needed me most.

Never truly acknowledging

Your strength,

until now-

now that my own lack of-

mocks me,

and is hastily demanded to

stand

upright

alone.

Mother, we are now separated-

by these man-made borders.

But separated still-

by so much more,

that I cannot-

define.

 

Paradox Unraveled

I know she often thinks of the beauty of death.

As she lays down her weary body

That once swayed gracefully from side to side

That once paid homage to the goddess of vitality.

But she is now weary and withdrawn-

Withdrawn from the world and withdrawn from herself

Unable to recognize the reflection of the ghost before her

She weeps quietly,

Inwardly

It is the inward pain that has devoured her

It came silently but knowingly

Knowing the destruction it would cause and the

Disarray that would be the final result

And as she lays down her weary body

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

Close to something

Living-

Because life is what she has lost

Because life is what she has used to barter

Because life is what she deserves to have.

But she is weary now

Weary of living.

The art of unliving

Of always giving of herself

Is one she has perfected

Thus, she no longer knows

What it means to live whole

And not,

as a sacrifice.

As she lays down her weary body

Her eyes grow distant and wide

Searching for her home above the heavens,

her place among the stars.

Perhaps, this is really living

She has found peace in this paradox

Of being dead to find life

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

But there is futility embroidered around this effort

She has found something-

Something much more potent than life itself

Beautiful Black Shadow

I am the whispers between the arch of the backless gown,
The beautiful black shadow that lingers
in the deserted alleyways.
I am the apartheid of femininity
the war on women,
and the voice shouting above the train.
I bow to your order,
Shedding myself as I go along.
Bringing gifts of silence to my matrimony of selves,
Holding within, thoughts of flight, of dreams, of hope.
I am the many who drift along the edges of this globe,
gliding over the circumference of existence,
trading in goods of sexual prowess and the need
to be loved.
Within myself, I see mirrors of who was, who is and-
who could never be.
I pay homage to the black sisters who wish themselves yellow,
Who pray chemicals over their kinky crowns,
who lift thighs high in salute to an identity
they have been thrusted.
I am the whispers, the prayers, the moans.
I am without but yet somewhere I am within.
Somewhere within, I am the beautiful black shadow that talks-
in the background.

When we came in the name of peace

We came in the name of peace, in the name of all good and godly things.

How it all began we neither cared nor did we remember.

It was a union between fire and ice.

A meeting of the Cairo’s and the America’s.

It could not have been fathomed, believed by any.

Was this union blessed? Had the prophets fore seen such a thing?

“Sinners!!” some cried out on the street.

Do you remember that time?

It seems in our minds we had created our own world.

Ours was timeless. That’s what I knew they thought.

I once woke up to the laughter of an old woman and I thought I saw our ending coming.

 

So how did we get here?

There was a time when we knew we could survive this.

We were so sure of our ability, to love, to hold, to cherish.

But our make-believe world has broken down.

The power is out and we are left to grope blindly, as darkness mocks our existence.

We didn’t anticipate the possibility of falling out of our utopia.

When the unimaginable happened we could only watch- immobile, unfeeling—numb

How could we have known that we would one day walk on opposite streets?

Were our minds supposed to contemplate the possibility of this once impossibility?

We thought we came in the name of peace, in the name of all good and godly things.

A path of indefinable pain was the one we finally trod.

Unapologetic

The unapologetic existence has proved to be an art that is rarely celebrated.

In fact the very idea has been crucified more often than embraced. 

But what are the rules you might ask?

What makes your existence unapologetic and my own an awkward copy that begs acceptance from all?

Well, that is just it.

The one who lives unapologetic is just that.

She is wary of prophets and motherhood.

He is making love to his gay lover on 24th street.

She is Meriam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death for loving a Christian man.

He is taking pictures instead of going to Law school.

To exist unapologetic-ally is to fore go the world. To admit and to surrender to who you were and are.

And to do so without apology and with a smile.