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Photo credit: Waithamai. Title: Black. Source; Flickr.

In the shadow of frustrations
I sometimes hear myself
say, “I made it this far alone,”
failing to find a reflection for that
embodiment of life in the mirror of my years.
I see instead a museum of women refusing
to gather dust in my memories and heart spaces
—women who at distinct moments have shouldered me
when life had done its best to twist me into questions
—my mother dropping her worry into reluctant ears,
the sisters who have crossed over bloodlines
to hold me in position when my strength was a body dropping
out of the sky with no parachute — the ones who broke all the mirrors
that reflected a distortion—me less than, not enough, not able
— taught me how to do the same— the ones who met me on pages
that opened doors to new worlds where I learnt I was not my mistakes—
women like Maya who reminded me I was a constellation of possibilities.

The women who ornament my heart-shelves are sculptors
quietly shaping me into a masterpiece at moments I fail
to acknowledge I am still under construction.
This body is a monument of many women;
I was not built alone.




About the Author:

Tolu Agbelusi is a Nigerian British poet, playwright, performer and lawyer with a unique voice that is gentle but powerful. With a subtle empathy that draws readers into her stories, she tackles the entire human condition with a passion for narratives that explore the many dimensions of womanhood and being. Listed by Speaking Volumes as one of the best British writers of colour in 2017, Tolu has performed widely from the Southbank Centre in London to Contact, Manchester. To find out more about her work, visit

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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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