As Me Looked at Me

Today it rained and I thought of me

And how much she loves the rain

How I miss her when it rains

 

I thought of trees and twilight

and misdirected nostalgia

I thought of me

and how much these things

used to mean to her

 

Today as I zoomed past

Unfamiliar memories

I thought of me

and I swear she was seated

right beside me

 

I swear I held my hands

in my shaky fingers

I swear, when she looked at me

I saw an echo of faith

Faith that has long since faded

 

In her face I saw the imprint of love

not the type that swears devotion

not unrequited,

undying

the kinda undying that takes

away your choice

 

the kinda undying that whispers

forgiveness into the ears of

heart broken mothers

The kinda undying that dies a little

on the inside when confronted with dissapointment

 

and as me looked at me

I wonder what me saw

did she look into these tired eyes

and see insecurity

a bridge she thought she had crossed

 

did she think

that this is where

she would eat me

three years after our divorce

when I told her that I was leaving her

because I had fallen in love with poetry

does she think now as she looks at me

 

This

Is this it?

Is this what we have become

writing about our self in the third person

speaking around  our words

hiding behind metaphors like ‘rain’

and ‘Undying whispers’ and ‘echoes of faith’

 

when I mean that today was the day

I decided to be real

to be needed

to be missed

 

I mean really needed

like

like an Afro comb

like an extra Sunday

like little kids

Need candy

 

I will be missed

really missed

like

like an afternoon special

like the five Naira note

 

Today is the day

I’ve decided to love me

despite all my wanting metaphors

and over dramatic analogies

 

Today as it rains

I sit by me

and I think of me

and I like what I see.

 

 

 

 

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The Miniskirt Muslima

 

To the girl who sits outside my window reading the Quran in a miniskirt,

I have a friend for you.

She is the girl who dresses only in comfortable clothes.

She keeps her shame inside her purse.

But she is never without it.

She has rings in her nose,

And hair the shocking colour of bubblegum

Or is that her twin sister.

in the end, they both look the same

when she speaks she paints profanity

and gesticulates with censored fingers

you must know her.

surely you must.

you are both pretentious

both female

both judged by the misogynists

who have proclaimed themselves of higher opinion

by the hyper-masculine voices who decide,

like self-elected gods

what should be and what shouldn’t

 

surely you must like her

do you not?

do you not see yourself in her

do you not see how good she is for you

how well she will help you

do you not see how bad you need the help

and so I give you this friend

wrapped up in bubblegum hair and caps lock opinions

with the hope that when she speaks of miniskirt Muslimas,

you do not see that she is trying to fix you.

 

To the girl who tries very hard to fix new friends,

I have a friend for you.

she is the girl who never partakes in happy times

she has an aura the colour of coal

but her candy floss smiles are pastel pink

she has flowers in her hair

and frills in her socks

but she is always without deception.

she hates your bubble gum hair

but she keeps their colour on her lips

wears their scent on her skin

her perfect skin

her perfect lips

a perfect glimpse of how imperfect the perfect can sometimes be

surely you must know her

surely you must

she is a fixers perfect dream

she is the person that you will never get to fix

she is broken on the inside

in perfect halves

The perfect usually are

She has this way of being romantic in her loneliness

She has this way of being lonely in your company

and so i give you this friend

and all her broken pieces

with the hope that even if you never do,

you both try hard to piece her together

 

To the girl with frilly socks and pastel smiles,

I have a friend for you

She is the girl you call un-attractive

Exotic looking

Peculiar features

When you mean that she is ugly

She is not ugly

She is the person that allows you to be beautiful

She is the person who you go to for answers

Because those who are beautiful never have them

She is not the answer

She has scars

Many scars,

But not as many as they will be

She finds profession in comforting others

But she has never found comfort

She does not know what it is to be lonely

For she is always shadowed by society

Now her I am sure that you know,

Surely you must

Do you not see that she is who you fear?

Who you fear you will become

And so I give you this friend

Because I know that you will show her

That pastel smiles and bubblegum lips

Are not the answer to the question she’s been asking

I know you will show her

Even if you do not mean to

Even if she does not feel it

She is more beautiful than the world

 

To the girl who does not know what it is to be lonely

I have a friend for you

She is a girl who can teach you

She is a girl who spends her Saturday mornings

Staring outside her window

Gazing at girls in miniskirts

Reading the Quran in perfect confidence

She never says anything

She only stares

Outside her window where time stalls

She is immortal

Forever in a state of judgement

Not that which she gives

But what she receives

Judgement that is yet to happen

She sits there

And wonders if Miniskirt Muslimas

Are as happy as they seem

Surely she cannot find friendship in that book

She is the perfect lie

 

Surely everyone in the world is as lonely as I

Maybe they are just better at pretending

Now, I KNOW YOU KNOW ME HER

She is who you thought you would like to be

She is the standard she is picture on your bedroom wall

She is the magazine with dog eared pages

She is a forwarded picture of perfect skin

She is the “her” in “if only I looked like her”

She is who you’d never expect to

Sit beside her bedroom window

on wasted Saturday mornings

So I give you this friend

Because I know you will learn from her

How slowly a person can die on the inside

How well invisible girls make themselves lonely by being seen

She will teach you what it is to be lonely

But I know that you will teach her

That it is okay to be seen

That lonely is a wicked thing

It leaves you gasping

But you don’t need friends

To show you how to breathe easy

You know

Surely you must

She has no window in her lonely bedroom

She is too old now

Not to know what a mirror is

I hope that you can teach her

What it is to love her reflection

 

What I want to write you

What I want to write you

 

My Dearest

Dearest,

Dear

Hi Olive,

It’s been a while since we last

Saw each other

I’ve missed you

Really, I have

I know it’s my fault

That I don’t know you anymore

I know it’s my fault that you don’t call me anymore

Still I miss our future

The one we can only remember now

Our adventures

Our memories

I miss sitting on your bed

Miss trying to make you like me

Trying so hard to be miss understood

Because I thought that’s what you wanted

I miss trying so hard to fit in with you

I miss feeling like I did

I miss our version of this moment

The way we envisioned it

Without distance

Without cruel friends

Who break hearts wordlessly and

Without explanation

I miss long hours spent discussing memories

Memories that are better in thought

Memories that were beautiful

Memories that are frozen in a time

Where we were the damsels who slayed dragons

In a time where we were the clarion call of adventure

In a time where we swore we would never fade away

A time so bright that when I look back in

To this time, I’ve betrayed

My retinas burn

I miss you

I miss

And I know it’s my fault

Although not this me

Brave enough to write you this letter

The other me

The one who will probably cross it out when she awakens

The other me

The insecure one

Who needs you to like her

So badly that she

Pretends to be someone else

She who practices unconscious quirks

Masters them in bathroom mirrors

Who wills herself to be cool

Who puts in so much effort to be effortless

Whose quirks you have to love

I admit that sometimes she overdoes it

I admit that she over thinks things

I admit that she has ruined so many beautiful friendships

You see sometimes she means to text you back

Sometimes she almost does

But most times she worries

She worries that she will never be profound

She worries that you’ll see right through her

She worries that you will understand her

She worries that she isn’t pretty enough

Quirky enough

She isn’t funny enough

To be your friend

She worries so much that

She leaves the messages unread

And hides behind the distance

She shies away

From the awkward silences

that accompany questions like

What are you up to?

What have you been doing?

How have you been?

Nothing

Nothing she screams In my head

Up to nothing

Doing nothing

I am nothing

 

But I do know that we are friends

Aren’t we

We have to be

Even if I don’t act like it

We have to be

I need you

I mean

She needs you to like me

Even if I,

She is too scared to deserve it

So yeah,

 

I do miss you

It is my fault

I hope we see each other soon

I hope I’ll be brave enough to text you soon

Maybe I’ll try to

Maybe I’ll be busy

But must likely

I’ll lie about being happy

About being interesting

Having actual adventures

Being fine

Being ok

I am none of these things

I just am

I am the personification of

Anxiety

 

So…. What about you

How have you been?

Say hi to your brother Boaz for me

You see I remember,

Here’s hoping you are well

Here’s hoping

I’ll call you soon

 Love

                                                                      Your friend

Nafisah

 

What I write you instead 

Hi Olive,

It’s been a while

And I’ve missed you

Say hi to your brother Boaz for me,

I’ll call you soon

Nafisah

On The Bus To Ajah

( Ajah is a place in Lagos, Nigeria, where I live. After this encounter, which I still believe I did in fact share with my grandfather, even if he is a little bit dead, I now look forward to taking the bus. who knows what other adventures or people i’ll meet. Take the bus today and see if you find any inspiration.)

On the Bus To Ajah 

A man sits next to me on the bus to Ajah

I do not greet him

He is dark and grey

And decked out in Islam

When he looks at me he smiles

And I nod in embarrassment

He does not falter

 

I hold salaam at the tip of my tongue

held hostage by my bare shoulders

I hide my face behind my hair as it dances in the wind

He speaks

But only to ask if I have change

For his fare

I pay his fare

 

A man sits next to me on the bus to Ajah

He has no idea how profound he is

He doesn’t look it

He doesn’t sound it

But he feels like my grandfather

 

They’ve the same aura

Same beautiful charcoal skin

Same……

This man FEELS like my grandfather

And I think, wow!

 

Of all the days I could have met him

Of all the times he could have seen me smile

He chooses a time where I am

Completely my self

And this upsets me

 

A man sleeps next to me on the bus to Ajah

I watch him closely

I hope he dreams

Of granddaughters

Who love him

Granddaughters who are

Confident in Islam

Who have warm shoulders

Covered and protected

And scarves that dance in the wind

 

A man sleeps next to me

On the bus to Ajah

When he opens his eyes

He is just a man

Not my grandfather

Who has long since run out of life

Not a reflection of the me I hope to soon be

Not nostalgia

Not… anything

He is just a man

 

I wear my hair tied up in scarves

My shoulders beneath warm clothes

I am completely myself

This does not upset me

And so when …

When a man sits next to me

On the bus to Ajah

Dark and grey and decked out in Islam,

I greet him with a hearty

Salaam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teddy Tea-cakes

If you take a walk in the woods

You’ll be shocked what you find

There’s a dainty tea party

Where the toys are alive

Teddies tossing teacakes

Tasting tasty toy tarts

That’s exactly what you’ll find

 

If you sit and observe

You’ll be shocked what

You hear

All the dollies giggle as they

braid each other’s hair

gossiping girls, giggling gallantly

that’s exactly what you’ll hear

 

don’t try and approach them

or you’ll be shocked when you meet

the animate toy cars

with engines living

carelessly cruising creative car ways

that’s exactly what you’ll meet

 

Don’t stare for too long

Or you’ll be shocked when you see

The building blocks grow arms and feet

And take offense to stares

Building beautiful brick

Buildings by binding themselves

 

Don’t bring your friends over

Or they’ll think you’ve gone mad

This dainty tea party

Will be nowhere in sight

Teddy Tea-cake Thursdays

Are hard to come by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Time I Met His Mother

The first time I met his mother

It was new year’s eve

And I was nervous

 

We sat around the dinner table

All twenty of his relatives

And me, his soon-to-be wife

And she whispered,

“don’t be”

 

The second time I met his mother

We sat by the window

In a hospital waiting room

In addition to the cigarette burns

On her caramel skin

The third degree burns on her heart

Were singeing

 

On my third encounter with the lawyer

His mother came to see me

Hating me for leaving

Because she knew she never could

 

However hard I did avoid her

I saw her one more time

When the fates put

His father’s body in the ground

Through fake tears I saw her smirking

Like she did when they buried him

I’m so sorry

Is all I whispered

Lying through my teeth

With poker face and steady voice

She whispered back

“Don’t be”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Racism of Zebras

We are a respectable breed of mammals

And hence should be treated as such

We have no quarrel with our brothers

We view all stallions in grace

 

Be you midnight black

Or radiant white, we do not segregate

Of course you see,

How can we

We wear both colors upon our skin

 

Some call us white

With stripes of night

Like tribal marks upon our hide

 

As if it is something we should avoid

Something we ought to want

To hide