How not to feel alone within a love

I
Remember all the honey
thick & smooth against your skin
covered by hands steady from
soothing hard loving into dusk

II
Tell him you feel alone
Tell him fear comes to you like memory
brushing softly against your chest
leaning in if you don’t swat quickly

III
Sit still when he calls you love
in a string of words
that unpack your lonely
and leaves them out to dry

IV
Ask about an already laid plan
Watch the sun come to his eyes
the corners of his mouth shift to lift
his face then follow the tilt of his head
the swing of his fingers
the future is coming back to life

V
Play that song from Inside llewyn Davis
Don’t speak – If you missed the train I’m on
start soft when the chorus comes along
a little louder on the next lines – a hundred miles
remember Christmas – a hundred miles
remember May – You can hear the whistle blow
remember all the honey? – a hundred miles

passing through

I heard bullets leave particles as they pass through fabric. They tend to cling for decades or more. The night you left, you shot through fabric on the clothesline with a force that left me breathless. I had been waiting for months for you to come back for me. It rained and parched and bellowed in all that time.

Bracing for impact. Your words rolled off the edge nonstop until you were empty and I was full. Full of questions I didn’t dare ask. Full of questions I know I should have asked. I remember silence digging its heels into my spine when everything was being taken from me. I remember because I was on the floor in the dark and I was shaking from all the breaking.

That didn’t stop your leaving. When has it ever? When has an already bleeding body stopped a bullet from cutting through new flesh? When has it stopped a shoot to kill? The particles revolved around my dizzy bones, seeped into my blood, compounded my love and pinned me further to the ground.

I was never meant to be your home. Twelve months of manipulating a tourniquet and changing bandages and I finally understand that I was somewhat of a lingering, a place to lodge, and you were merely passing through.

Two West African Girls Talk Love

Adora: Whenever I think I have love figured out, something (or someone) brings me back to the drawing board. I love that you’re in a healthy relationship so I’ll put you on the spot. What is love, and do you think you’ve found it?

Esther: Love is good. In spite of the variations of love I have encountered, one thing is unchanging – Love is good. Like you, I go to the drawing board often and i’m back there again. This time, this love is honest. This love sheds itself to be known. This love has shown scars I didn’t know I carried and is sturdy in ways I didn’t know I needed. Do I think i’ve found it? I think so. This feels a lot like the real deal. What does your drawing board say about love?

Adora: I find it interesting that you said your current love is honest. Honesty was never something I actively looked for in love, because I viewed it as a given. Life has shown me that an honest love is key. Love should not make me want to filter my thoughts, nor should I have to read between the lines when it speaks. I am reluctantly coming to terms with this: love is a necessary but insufficient factor. I no longer harbor lofty notions of a love that conquers all, and it breaks my heart – this logic business; this cruel loss of my sense of wonder. I am officially an adult. Of course, I need commitment, the knowing that my love will show up, again, and again. That it will choose me every morning, and that on most mornings it will not feel like a choice. Do you think love can exist without commitment?

Esther: You are right to think of honesty as a given. The best part of this new honesty is that it is kind even when the subject matter is one that could easily bruise. It is one that allows for growth after careful examination of facts and feelings. I have had to come to terms with the insufficiency of love as well and it sucks that love really doesn’t conquer all. That you could give love as best you can, more than you have ever given in your entire life and still lose. It is a painful truth. And the wonder? I think I may have lost a bit of that too. A thing could be so wonderful and yet we must leave room for the complexities of the human heart because it changes things in significant ways. As for commitment, I think love cannot exist without it. This life is a whirlwind of things and you kinda need someone who is willing to stand with you in it and through it as often as they need to. That’s a huge amount of expectation and trust to put on a person. It makes me nervous. What scares you the most about love?

Adora: Falling out of love. Or worse yet, heartbreak. Falling out of love is its own form of heartbreak. I have a low pain tolerance so I don’t do heartbreak. So far, I have only been enchanted by people who expressed a healthy dose of affection towards me. It doesn’t guarantee an absence of heartbreak but it increases the odds of a good epilogue. Love bothers me because I can’t control for all of the unpredictability that comes with my partner’s humanity. A part of me is convinced I’d only find true happiness if my partner is John Legend meets Steph Curry meets Harry Styles (i.e. perfection). Is there a trait of yours that sometimes sets you back in relationships?

Esther: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any significant trait. I mean, I am far from perfect and I get scared a lot. Actually… I think I have one. I find that at the beginning of something good, sometimes I feel the need to run (in the opposite direction). I think this is my mind’s way of protecting me from the possibility of something going wrong eventually. If I don’t go any further, getting hurt isn’t an option. But I always ask myself, What if this is doesn’t hurt? What if it is better than you could ever dream? Of course, no one knows how anything will turn out, we can only hope it goes in our favour. I strongly believe that there is nothing that can happen (to me) that I will not survive. And I mean, if push comes to shove, i’ll get a poem or two out of it lol and it’ll all be alright. Have you ever had to move on from a person? What was the hardest part?

Adora: If push comes to shove, i’ll get a poem or two out of it. I love you, Esther. I’m a bit of a “hopeless romantic.” I believe in soul mates and happy endings. I must confess, I’m the farthest thing from a serial dater. I think it comes with being an introvert and my natural inclination to keep myself to myself. The hardest person to move on from was my post-high school boyfriend. I think it was really tough because there was no one else crazy enough to take me to iHop at 2am for ice cream and pancakes. I swear 75% of my heart break stemmed from my missing our midnight food hunts. So in line with my penchant for romance, favorite date of all time?

Esther: Me too! I’m pretty optimistic and I used to think I wasn’t a hopeless romantic but I am. Not a serial dater either so I can be a little too careful when it comes to these things (I see why we are friends lol). I see why moving on from your post-high school boyfriend would be hard. Night time hunger pangs would always be associated with him and that’s just stressful. I think eating and food hunting together is so intimate or maybe i’m just weird haha. My favourite date has to be my most recent date. We had a little moment (i call our arguments moments) on our way to the restaurant but by the time we got seated, we were laughing and teasing like nothing happened. The food was delicious and way too much. I put our phones away so we could really be present in the moment. We talked about everything we could think of. Oh, we were sitting next to this beautiful fireplace and it was perfect. After dinner, we went to get drinks at a bar and like a true feminist, I offered to pay for drinks lol. SIS! I DIDN’T KNOW DRINKS WERE SO EXPENSIVE, especially the Patrone Gold (obviously never getting shots again). It was a fun night and I forgot my toms so I had to wear my heels the whole time. Ugh.

Adora: You are adorable. I hear you on the feminist struggle. I try to be super mindful of my bank account, but I’m all for treating him when you can because he is my little princess, haha. Catching up with you is my favorite thing. Let’s do this again?

Esther: Lol yes, men are princesses too. I’ve enjoyed this catch up session. Let’s definitely do this again.

Order of Events

At first you feel everything
and then nothing.

Then the most terrible sadness
laced with delicate love.
Then a sliver of hope-

maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems
maybe there’s a chord that fits
enough to make it sound like a song.

some happiness
some sadness
more happiness than sadness
then sadness, far from benign
then nothing.

Anger.
burning through your sleeves
burning down the truth you
desperately want to be true

And then you just want to forget
everything.

even the best memories
even the dearest, most beautiful moments
(of your life so far), you want to forget because

for you, they are creating an even
greater grief- having felt.
having seen.
having been.
but you cannot forget

and that in itself is a tragedy.

After five on a winter day

We almost miss your anger
when we walk through the door.

The air cracks like a shell
as we busy ourselves unbuttoning
jackets and untying shoe laces.
The air is still cracking
as we oven-roast vegetables
and pan-grill chicken for supper.

The air cracks a little more
as I hear her in the darkness
softly tell her mother
she would take away the roof
over your head if you weren’t
blood.

I fall asleep thinking of redemption,
of the ways we could restore,
of things to do to save us,
of how this could be forgiven
but never forgotten.

Seven reminders

1.    You should recognize when love starts to feel like suffering.
2.    Be careful the excuses you make for the one you love. Especially knowing that if your love for them was taken out of the picture, their actions would be unacceptable.
3.     A lot of terrible things can happen when you forget who you are.
4.    So don’t forget who you are when you give love. Don’t forget you can pull the plug if it’s draining you.
5.     Don’t let one cloud darken your home. Remove the broken light bulb. Leave it empty. The sun will arrive any moment now.
6.     Letting go isn’t as easy as uncurling your fingers. It isn’t as easy as releasing your grip. It is a meticulous undoing.
7.     This will take time. Take as much as you need.

We could be lovers

Five minutes ago, I was standing in the shower, hot water splattering on my chest, thinking about how we could never be lovers; because for you, I may be too serious.

But then I thought, maybe we could be lovers because we know each other. Because the first time we met, we were eleven year olds who barely knew a thing about anything, thrown into a world we did not know how to navigate. In this world, our clothes hung on our bodies for dear life because we got skinnier by the month. Because home felt farther than it was.

We could be lovers because we have watched each other out grow versions of ourselves. We have shed old skin, grown new ones and repaired broken skin we still needed. We have loved and not-loved but returned to loving again and again. We have fought. I have called you names. I have promised not to tell you anything ever again but you are still my safe place. I still tell you things because you know me. You accept me. You make it all feel small. Fixable.

Thursday night was our make up night. Bible study from 7pm to 9pm. Each time we fought, we could never get past a Thursday without relearning forgiveness. We had two hours to lift the rug and make sense of the broken pieces beneath it. I saved you a seat next to mine or you saved me one and we would sit there still a bit angry, pretending to listen while the tension between us rose like a leaf in the wind. We sat there with our throats dry and our hearts loud in our ears waiting for the first words to arrive. I cannot remember who was braver of the two of us but we walked out the hall feeling like our worlds rhymed again.

We have moved to a new continent yet we still love in the most infrequent ways. In three day old text messages and un-returned phone calls and face timing every six months. We share old jokes, old pictures, I love yous that we really mean and I miss yous that are always felt.

We are now twenty-two year olds. We talk about healthy eating, social justice, the legitimacy of christianity . We laugh (a lot). We still tell each other things we wouldn’t tell other people. Beneath the laughter, we are stripped down versions of ourselves. We share our biggest struggles; the losing and finding ourselves in cycles. We have created a dynamic that would drive normal people insane but for us, it works.

I talk about how I was such a bitch in junior high. You say “not really” a softer version of “yes really”. We call each other on nights we cannot breathe, on days it feels like the world is closing in on us and we are our last chance for air.

We could be lovers because five years ago, I watched your father drive off with you in the front seat and I thought I would miss you forever. In February, we stood in middle of a busy mall as though it hadn’t been five years. As if it had only been a week. But you could tell, couldn’t you? that we had changed, physically and in all other ways. That time had carried us through winter and fall.

We are different. You are different and yet our love feels the same – even stronger, even better. Effortless. It’s what I love most about it. There is your voice in my head, your face in a smile, your square shaped nails with its white tips and there is your handwriting, the one you changed to an uglier one in js2 because it meant you were older. I am your biggest “you-are-going-to-do-wonderful-things” and you are mine and perhaps I would be different without you.

We could be lovers but we shouldn’t be. Because at least we have each other to run to if our lovers crack us open. If our lovers leave us bleeding. We could be lovers but there is a method to us and it will not survive the heartbreak of a failed us. We could be lovers but there is not a thing in the world that compares to the ridiculousness of us; this creation. We could be lovers but I will always be too serious for you.

the other side of truth

the truth isn’t always something we can grasp.
not because it isn’t real but because
sometimes the truth has thorns that will
journey through your defences. the truth
can in fact call forth blood.

the truth isn’t always kind or fair or soft
but we ask for it
we demand for it
as if it is meant to bring us warmth
as if it is supposed to bring us comfort
sometimes the truth is that lump in your throat
that song on the radio
that hand around your neck
sometimes the truth arrives and we cannot stomach it
because it’s nothing like we have imagined.

sometimes the truth breaks us
into pieces. Sometimes,
it doesn’t set us free.

talk to you soon

These nights look a lot like drinking the three day old strawberry banana juice sitting on our dresser and wondering why you still haven’t called. The crackers are not as crunchy as they were when we bought them three weeks ago but they still taste good. Isn’t that how it is with memory? The old still feels good even when it has lost a few details. The nutrition facts on the pack says 100 calories per three crackers, I have eaten five and I know I should stop before the guilt sets in.

It is 2:30am and I cannot understand why sadness feels so heavy after midnight or why you have refused to let me in.

we make do

We are sitting in a living room
smaller than what we are used to
The kitchen is a short L
with red pans and wooden spatulas
Horizontal shadow lines stretch across
reflecting the shutters in the night light
The zing of electricity leaves no room
for actual silence but we make do

We are islands away from our original home
Closer to the water than we are used to
but our jokes are the same. The same people
based, accent commanding stories of the
comings and goings of children and men
Of women who have nothing but their husband’s
names and post-baby bodies

The sky is getting darker, the room
a little cooler than when we began but
we are still taken by the stunning reflection
of people being people. Still hurdled over laughing
at what is left of our memories. There are only
little streaks of light sipping through the window now
but we make do. We always make do.

Twenty Twelve

The togetherness of crisp
summer days, afternoons spent laughing and
picnics at the beach. The unexpected
drop ins we welcomed. Late night jamming to
afrobeat and the sound of familiar voices.

We talked politics, the insatiable
Lagos life, the rush, the quickening
pulse, trading stories of police men
swinging loaded guns (in our faces).

There were spicy chicken wings. Liquor store
spendings- Jack Daniels. Merlot. Moet. Some
pulped orange juice and wedding party get-togethers.

Dress fittings. Secret dance practice
in the basement. Left over blue and white
candy from the wedding. Thanksgiving dinner
that actually involved Turkey and mashed potatoes.
The boys didn’t like it.

We made plans and cellphone videos.
Road trips to Edmonton. Sing-alongs to Davido’s Ekuro.
A steady trail of job applications. The long-distance
marriages. Snowstorms and Long-awaited victories.
The awe. The serenity. The magic of it all.

Chasing shadows

Last night I caught your heart
travelling to where he once lived
Tiptoeing across the sidewalks
attempting to leave only shadows behind

I saw the silk ribbon
(that should have stopped you)
laying in the moonlight
A symbol of rebellion- the proof
that our hearts are the wildest
creatures to ever roam this earth

There is a whiff of you in the air
Heart thumping against your pride
Your out-breath still lingers
Like the smell of cheap alcohol

Three knocks and
a voice asking to know your name
Your silence yells into the wind
“You should not be here”

Take the day off, will you?
Tame what is left of your desires.

old home

it is the back
of my grandmother’s hands,
her veins,
the way they lean into
her skin, as if they cannot
remember what it means to
stand-alone.

it is the wooden
bench, mastering its balance
with a broken ankle,
weighed down by
the gossip and buttocks of
market women.

it is my grandmother
serving afang so thick
it could have only been
made with extra
love and a little water.

it is the mosquitoes
commencing choir
practice just before
we start to eat.

it is the burn
on our finger tips as
We dig into the fufu

it is the fireflies taking
photographs. It is

my father’s childhood home.

I hope he loves you in flowers

I hope the man who loves you
brings you flowers every season.
Calendulas at the beginning of winter,
and Cyclamen when it gets brutal,
Daffodils when spring comes around,
and Lilies right before summer.

I hope he comes knocking on your door,
on the first day of summer with Daisies at his back and
Lavender, when you get sad because summer’s leaving.
I hope Autumn begins with Aster x Frikartii and
when the sun starts to set earlier,
I hope he sends forget-me-nots to remind you
that he thinks about you constantly.

I hope he sends you Tulips after a fight,
Jerusalem Sage when you’re down with a cold,
and White Roses when you feel like you are difficult to love.
I hope he plants flowers in the corners
of your soul and remembers to water them diligently.
On the nights when life has pushed you over the edge,
I hope he buries his nose in your neck
like you do your flowers and plants a thousand kisses there.

Most of all, I hope he opens up his heart to you every day like fresh flowers,
I hope he leaves the petals of his love in valley between your fingers,
and I hope he loves you for reasons you did not even know were possible.

Band-aid for the past

On the days
when the choices
you have made,
hover over you
like a dark cloud,
and your belly feels like
a tornado is coming,
May you remember
that all the scars
and bruises
you have sustained
in this war against comfort zones
and conformity
are signs that you are living.
You are doing exactly
what you were put here
to do. Let this be
your comfort.