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Going Home

My children used to sing
and dance under multiple
eyes of the sky; the sky
perches on my children’s
bodies with a bold beaming eye.
My children caress the heads
of snakes and scorpions
with their delicate feet;
they sing songs to complement
the chirp of crickets.

My children hide
and seek under the branch
of a fallen mango tree;
moonlight spurts down
to bleach the night.
My children scare
the night tourist off
dried corn-cobs
—he skulks behind
the yam barn,
legs it out when
my children sing
hymns to the moon.

My children used to flaunt
the cheap black on their
faces; my children unearth
more black from their bodies
with uli; my children
parade their blackness;
jigida affirms the flexibility
of my daughter’s waist.

We have left our
homes,we are skirting
a foreign lake.
We have left our
homes; the moon is tired
of slathering white
on my child’s body.

My child is tired
of moonlight stories;
my child does
not want to know
why the tortoise
has a cracked shell;
he doesn’t want
to know how the dog
lost a marathon while
lusting for bones.

We are skirting
a foreign lake.
In our new okra
garden, worms have
grown into snakes,
and snakes coil
round to feed
on their tails.

The moon plans
to cough heat
on my child.
My child has learnt
to moult off
her black like a snake;
my child drains
out her melanin.

The broken
spine of a palm
frond is

no longer
a sign.
The night tourist
chases away my
child’s song;
the night tourist
smacks my child’s
head; he speaks with
a voice stuffed
with concrete.

The broken
spine of a banana
leaf is no longer
a sign.
My child will
not hide under
the fallen roost
of a mango tree,
and my child will
not play Hide
and Seek in the
village square
at night.

The broken
spine of a banana
leaf is no longer
a sign;
who dare sing
and dance at night?
O dare! Who dare
touch the tail
of a scorpion? O dare!

What else
is free of dread
when an ant’s bite
kills faster than
a viper’s powder?
What else do
we read from
the sun when
has learnt
how to kill.

We are skirting
a foreign lake.
My child no longer
welcomes the new
moon with a song;
my child cannot
bear the weight
of jigida; my child
cannot soil her
fingers with uli.

Take me home;
my child wants
to mash the soft
bones of smoked
rat in white soup
without counting
down to the grave,
and my child wants
to taste the tip
of the ripe mango fruit
prescribed by a bat’s
bite as sweetest,
without fear
of foreign names.

Take me home.
Get two silver
trumpets; let’s
call back the birds—
let my child bend
his head to swallow
my words,
and let my child’s
chest swell with
my riddles;
let my child know
the secret of a toad’s
haste in the daytime.

Take me home;
I want to plot progress
against the sun—
let me cover
the mouth of my heaps
with sisal leaves;
let me stop the sun
from venting wrath
on the blooming shoots
of my buried tubers.

I want to buy
five gallons of morning
palm wine with two
naira coins,
and I want to bury
bush meat with
palm wine without
the fear of foreign names,
and let me lie on cold
bamboo bed listening
to the song of bats
as they ricochet
along the eaves,
making love.

Get two silver trumpets;
we shall gather the birds.
I want to send
down a slice of roasted
yam with crushed
arokeke, bell pepper
and red palm oil,
and let malaria shriek
at the mention
of dogonyaro, and let
lemon grass kill
the worms in my
stomach, let moringa
repair my body,
and let bitter kola
drain wild energy
from the body of snakes
that play pranks around
my house with their
newly-acquired poison.

arokeke (Yoruba also utazi in Igbo) = bush buck
bitter kola= garcinia kola
dogonyaro (Hausa) = neem
jigida (Igbo) = waist beads
uli (or uri) (Igbo) = traditional designs drawn on the body or walls of buildings

Lukpata Lomba Joseph is Nigerian. He currently resides in Port
Harcourt. His work has appeared in some journals/magazines including
Jacar Press’s One, Misfit Magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal,
Squawk Back Journal, The Collidescope
and elsewhere. He is a Best of
the Net nominee.

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