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14-anthology

Cover concept and design by Seyi. Cover typeset by Seyi.

Your mother’s hair used to be a mass of fine threads
that touched the back of her shoulders,
curving into a cluster of curls.
She fed them thick portions of cheap oil each morning,
scrubbed hard then softly, with hair brush.
Once, she said,
“When yours grow, Miriam,
a man will find it attractive,
then he’ll buy you lavender cream.”
But somewhere on the toilet wall
you made and re-made sketches
of two happy stick-girls
because you’d rather have Susan
than Mike touch your hair.
You stopped attending Sunday School
the day the teacher mentioned Sodom
and the girl from the next street
(who always thought you had
the queerest evil spirit)
looked sideways and whispered
like a female exorcist,
“How do you crush on a girl?”
And your eyes narrowed into
a needle, piercing its way through
tissue paper, and your skin became a city under siege,
and you fortified your defenses
and whispered back,
“You…how do you crush on a boy?”
Then you realized
you had nothing to defend, by the way.
You loved placards
but they wouldn’t let you raise them
at home,
or on the street
or at Sunday School.
So you held them inside you and
in your many dreams,
of which you’ve lost count,
for dreams are variegated things
like arithmetic.
At school, you realized you were
no more or less
like your mates,
that you aspired like everyone else,
dreamed the way others did
and that, like everyone else, your placards
had inscriptions that told of becoming,
until an end-point was attained – yourself .
Because someday, you had stopped ‘wanting to be’
and simply ‘became’.

 

 

**************

About the Author:

Chisom Okafor was studying Nutrition and Dietetics when poetry discovered him. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in various literary outlets.

*****

Chisom Okafor’s “Placards” first appeared in 14: An Anthology of Queer Art: Volume 1: We Are Flowers, a Brittle Paper-published anthology of writing, photography and digital art. Helmed by the LGBTIQ group 14, the project has an Introduction by Binyavanga Wainaina and blurbs from Unoma Azuah and Ikhide Ikheloa.

Read our other republication from the anthology: Rapum Kambili’s “Gay Wars: Battle of the Bitches (or The Tops and Bottoms of Being Out in Nigeria).”

Download and read 14: An Anthology of Queer Art: Volume 1: We Are Flowers.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Born in Aba, he combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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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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