Sinking (3)i.
My mother sent a photograph of my cousins
sitting around a kitchen stool in our backyard
eating garri and soup from the same plate.
I haven’t seen them in six years.

My youngest cousin is much older than I imagined
yet I haven’t been away that long. I remember her
as a baby with soft feet and skin, the color of charcoal.

My mother called to say my aunties were in town.
They are all here. I want you to speak to them.
Aunty said she hasn’t spoken to you since you left.
I try to remember a call that would make this false,
I cannot.

She is asking how I am,
telling me she’s called and caught
my voicemail each time. I apologize
because it is probably true. I would still apologize
even if it wasn’t true.

Auntie sounds as light as a whisper.
No surprise. We navigate
the questions and the silences
that precede them. I laugh a bit.
We talk at the same time. I stop to listen.

In the background, I hear Aunty—
Speak to her in our language so she doesn’t forget.
Auntie turns to ibibio.
My Ibibio shrinks at scrutiny, but I try.
I waltz to english when it gets knotty
and back to Ibibio when I have unraveled.

I could have called before my mother did.
I thought about calling. Then I thought about the
uneasiness strewn between words.

It has something to do with being held apart by oceans.
Not knowing who I have grown into or how much
of me is left. Still thinking of me younger
than I am. a child. not a woman.

I love them furious. I love them strong.
I love them belly deep. I love them wide.

If we were sitting across each other in my mother’s kitchen
Or cramped in a room with a lantern in the corner
Or sitting beneath the guava tree before
the generator overtakes the moon’s light,
they would see I haven’t been away that long.
I haven’t been gone long enough to forget.
I will never be gone in that way.

furious. strong. deep. wide.
there will be no forgetting here.



The image in the post is an adaptation of a photograph by Loren Kerns via Flickr.

About the Author:

Portrait - EdohoEsther Edoho works as a Human Resource Administrator and part-time hand model for She likes good sentences, podcasts and poetry.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

4 Responses to “There Will Be No Forgetting | by Esther Edoho | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. temie 2016/07/11 at 10:25 am #

    I love, love this poem, Esther. It was so vivid I could see myself in the backyard listening to your phone conversation. Beautiful work!

  2. Laolu 2016/07/11 at 11:04 am #

    Inspiring me to start writing again

  3. Ezeamalukwuo 2016/07/13 at 9:10 am #

    This is really good. I have to read a second time to fully appreciate the beauty of this piece.
    it’s inspiring indeed.

  4. Nsisong Effiong 2016/07/24 at 11:05 am #

    The imagery is realistic and captured beautifully as can be seen in the ‘uneasiness strewn between words.’

    I like that there is no attempt at structure and the pauses succeed at imbuing the poem with an African story telling flow.

    That your love attempts to consume the oceans that separate you, ‘furious. strong. deep. wide’ reinforces the commitment to not forgetting.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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