It’s quite the feeling.
Walking on a tour, listening to your history
of beads being shared with you. You smile, nodding
your head towards the guide who has done
you no harm. Your eyes roam spaces your body
feels estranged to, yet enthralled for more information.
You are quiet, most of the time. Taking mental notes
of the dirt on your shoes that need cleaning.
Frustrated. Questioning whether you know enough.
Once, a man interrupted my meal,
His eyes fixed on my wrist. He asked which family
I belonged to? Who would have guessed
that my silence, one of uncertainty and confusion
would be mistaken for boldness. I wanted to ask
about his apology that evening, why he refused
to let go until he heard me forgive him.
When I am home, I am all the afropean cliches.
The foreigner who has returned, wearing things
to show my connection. My bare feet on red sand
packing gifts to take home to loved ones, until home
asks why I wear what I wear? And whether the heft
of my son’s chain on my neck is for decorative
When I arrived back home, I attended a night club
wearing my son’s chain. A row of red beads, snapped
from my neck in a fight. Its pieces, like marbles scattered
across the dancefloor. People stepped on the beads
as they ran over me towards the exit, while I’m laid
on the floor, feeling each kick that pierced my ribs.
Maybe it was the chain, knowing I was far from ready.
Maybe it was home, beating the shame and appropriation
out of me.
I remembered walking on a bridge with my uncle.
Oshun’s river streamed beneath us, its brown
steaks looked like pulsing veins that held his gaze.
Gently, he whispered Junior, I need to go, now!
He rubbed his white beads into his skin.
Beads passed down from his Grandmother to him.
I asked what was wrong? He told me how the river
was calling him. I watched him, his eyes, widening
with each breath, I could tell he would have jumped in.
It’s quite the feeling. Walking through a building.
hearing about beads that are stored above, neatly
in cupboards. Its worth is such that it is exchanged
for money, when times are dyer. Beads often offered
as bride price for approval, respect and gratitude.
Here, I want to say to the guide, there is a connection.
One that runs deeper than academia, something
I can’t put into words.
I want to take it all, and run back home.
But for what purpose? Only for home to turn to me,
while staring at such value, and asking whether I know
what I am holding?