September 27, 2013


This one is for the grandfather I never met, the one with skin the shade of anthills, the merchant, whose gap-tooth I have only admired in fading photographs, the one people still refer to as 'the good man', Babajide..

It was the 4th day.

Aduke could hardly believe it. It seemed just like yesterday the midwife had first placed the child in her arms. And yet it had been 4 days. 4 days since she came to full knowledge of what it meant to love. 4 days since he looked at her with those eyes of his and etched his place into her soul forever.

He had filled out a lot since he was born and even though everyone said he resembled his father, there was no doubt in Aduke's mind that the child was his mother's son.

His chin was hers. His smile, the long fingers that latched onto her breasts as he fed, the anthill shade of his skin; it was all her.

His eyes though, his eyes were Baba's.

3 more days before they could present him to the world. 3 more days and she wondered if 3 days would be enough for the shriveled old man sitting in front of her.

"Aduke, are you still here?" Baba called to her.

"Yes Baami, I am still here."

He sighed and spat out the kolanut he had been chewing, his sightless eyes depending on his ears to help him determine the right direction for his spittle.

"Go home, my child." He said when he had rid his mouth of the kola.

"Your child will be waking up soon and seeking his mother's breast. Go home."

"How can I go home, Baami? The naming ceremony is in three days' time and yet the gods refuse to pick a name. "

"Aduke, you must learn to be patient and trust the gods. Your son will have a name by his naming ceremony. Go home to your husband, my child and trust. Go on now"

Her breasts were starting to ache and she knew she would get no respite until the mouth of her hungry son had found them. She sighed and made to get up from the mat. It was hard to believe the frail old man sitting on the mat was her Baba. The same Baba that had swung her high over his head as a little girl. The same Baba that had made a place for her on his shoulders and in his heart even though she was an unexpected child, a child of his old age, a child the gods had sent to renew his youth like he loved to say. Aduke's breasts ached even more and this time it had nothing to do with the child and everything to do with the old man. She got up from the mat and took both his hands in hers.

"Don't cry, Omo Ola, Omo Ekun, Oriade mi, you are a woman now, you know, with another's tears to tend to. Be strong, Aduke. Your child will have a name. You will not be ashamed."

The old man waited till he was sure his daughter had walked far enough. It was then that he turned towards the direction of his gods.
They had never failed before when it came to giving him names for the children. They had not failed now either. He had a name. He was just not ready for the destiny it would bring.

He smiled to think of Aduke. She would have made a great priestess- she had a good heart and a determined soul, the tools of the trade- but her name had not suggested such a destiny. Ifamuyide, his second son would do just fine. He would miss her most of all of all his scions.

He closed his sightless eyes and took deep breaths before speaking.

"I am ready whenever you are, my fathers. I am ready for my destiny."

When the 7th day finally arrived, they would name the child 'Babajide', for his grandfather, the chief priest whose funeral was the same day.

Song of the day: Corinne Bailey Rae - Like a Star

September 25, 2013

Blank Canvas

He would finally make it to bed sometime before dawn. She would feel him get in beside her and turn sleepily towards him so he could hold her. She need not have bothered. He would have held her anyways. She was his anchor afterall, the one thing that held him down. 

It would take some time but soon enough, the kissing would begin and then the clothes would come off and the dance would start Her eyes would be wide open by then and even though the room was still dark, she would look into those tortured eyes and long to erase the fears they reflected.

He went limp before either of them had a chance to get the release they sought. She closed her eyes and waited, shutting them so he wouldn't search for answers that she didn't have. She held on fast to him with her thighs, letting him breathe and come back to her in his own time.

"I don't think I have it anymore." He said to her.

"Hmmmm..." She answered.

"It has been more than 2 years since I last painted anything worthwhile."

"Yes." She answered

"It isn't like I lack inspiration. I am inspired all the damn time. But what is in my head never comes out right on the canvas. I feel like a failure, like a one-hit star, like this was all a mistake. This moving to New York to pursue my dream. This adventure that haS slowly become a living nightmare. I have lost it, Alero. I think we should just go home to Baltimore and start afresh."

"Hmmmm..." She responded.

"Are you even listening to me?" He asked the woman underneath him.

Her eyes were still closed and she shifted slightly to bear his weight better. The movement sent a jolt down his spine and he found that he was suddenly ready again. The dance continued from where they left off. Only then did she open her eyes and let him know it was okay to drown his fears in her.

When it was over and their heart rates had calmed, she began to speak.

"Have you ever thought that making art is a lot like making love? Sometimes it is slow and sometimes it is fast. Sometimes, it is nothing - a mere reaction to pent-up hormones, and sometimes it is everything - the only way to show how much you love something. At the end of both processes, there is always a release. It is why a lot of people have sex. For the release. For the end. They look forward to the end of a thing and so they forget the right way to begin. So there are rapes, faked orgasms, unsatisfied parties and so on."

"You paint like most people make love. Y
ou paint for an end and so you do not know where to begin.  You keep looking forward to the painting that you forget that there is a certain beauty to the process, to the foreplay. Maybe you need to start looking at blank canvases as beginnings and stop seeing them as the paintings you want them to end up as. But what do I know, I am only a girl who hasn't orgasmed in months now."

She kissed him then and went to make ready. She had rounds of the children's ward today. She liked children a lot- they were in no hurry for endings.

When she got back that evening, he would meet her at the door with paint in his hair and a brush in his hand. He would lead her up the stairs and watch as she clapped excitedly over the three paintings he had completed in that one day. Even when she kissed and said "I have never seen anything more perfect," he would only be thinking about beginnings and the many blank canvases that were waiting on him.

Even when he would get his first reviews in the art section of the New York Times.
Even when one of the three paintings would fetch them more money than they could dream of. Even when she would tell him she was pregnant and other fathers-to-be would have been ready to paint a clear picture on the blank canvas of their minds of what their child would look like.
Even then, and forever after, he was content to stare at blank canvases, at her flat stomach, and enjoy beginnings as much as he did endings.

Song of the day: Sheryl Crow & Kid Rock - Picture

September 7, 2013

Stormy, with 0% Chance of Rain

Everyone came to help us move. Even Uncle Ansa whom I had not seen for a long time. I still remember the night you and he fought and you slammed the door at his exit. Mama had tried to calm you down but you had gone into your study and shut the door on her too.

I was supposed to be asleep but the argument woke me up. I came downstairs and cuddled up to Mama as she waited for the storm clouds to pass.

That was the way it was with you, Papa; stormy and cloudy, but with 0% chance of rain.

Mama says I have your temper, and your big heart. She always smiles when she says that. I smile too. 

I do not want to leave this house but Mama says we must. It is strange how it is the things that give me comfort that keep her awake at night. I heard her talking to Uncle Azu last month, when she told him about us moving to Nigeria.

"Every time the door shuts in this house Azu, I imagine it is Ifeanyi in one of his moods again. Everywhere I turn, I see him; his smile, his dance, the bushy eyebrows he would never let me shape, his glasses, his brandy... Every sound I hear, I imagine it is a harbinger to his laughter, his terrible singing... Every man in uniform I see, I want to run to. I want to ask him if he has seen my Ifeanyi, if he can tell me where to find him. I can't get away from his memories Azu, not in this house, not in this country. And I need to. I need to for my sanity."

I listened to their conversation and cried. I went to the study and found the book you had been reading. It was a book of poems. Your place mark was on W.B Yeat's "An Irish airman foresees his death".

We don't have much to pack but it takes hours for us to be done anyway. Mama told me the other day that our things will be sent to Nigeria on a ship, just like the ones you spent most of your life on, just like the one you died on.

"Why can't we send it by air" I asked her. "What if something happens to this ship too?"

She had burst into tears at my questions. It was just the two of us at home that day so I counted my toes a thousand times and let her cry.

We will spend a month in Uncle Azu's house and then it is off to Lagos where Mama has family that can help her 'cope'.

She sold most of the books but let me keep the one with the poems.

They tell us, you died serving your nation but didn't you always say you were Nigerian at heart?
They tell us we should be proud and hold our heads up high but they forget sadness weighs heavy.
They tell us you were one of the best sailors the Navy ever had but what does that matter to a 12 year old boy who loves planes and needs a father? Or to his widow who will never again sleep in her husband's arms?

I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above.

My father met his fate somewhere among the seas below. Does that make it less worth it?

"Maybe someday you will join the Navy too, son and make your father proud," One of the men in uniform said to me as he shook my hand, on the day that we buried you.

"I think I’d rather be an airman." I informed the man.

"Whatever you are, this country will be honored to have you."

I miss you every day, Papa, and when the storm clouds gather and the rains start to fall, missing you gets harder. It makes me miss the storm clouds with 0% chance of rain.

I will be an airman so I can stay close to those clouds.

In balance with this life, this death

Song of the day: Fergie - Finally