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
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
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).”