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Bulago Island beach. Photo credit: Nkiacha Atemnkeng.

Jambula Tree

When Sylvie and I are six

we eat jambula till our tongues turn indigo

then we travel home with night licking our heels.

In the morning, our foreheads still anointed

in violet blessings, we twine our stick-arms around its branches

and stuff banana fibre dolls in the hollows of its roots.

We swaddle make-believe babies in grass-blankets

and check on them between bouts of hide and seek.

 

Now we are twenty six, in a cafe on a tree-lined street

we sit over Caesar salad and white wine

and Sylvie raises her ring finger to the sun,

‘These hands wash his boxers.’ And I see

a high priestess in a harem

where wives are judged by how well

they wash skid marks off their husband’s underwear,

by how fervently they pray away the cum from his encounters

with sharp-breasted-round-hipped girls.

 

Sylvie will elect for C-Section to stay tight,

her baby will feed on a bottle, her breasts will stay

high,

 

and I, remain

 

watching her mauve-stained soles, matte black lipstick

that will not bleed. Even after drinks.

 

Maybe she bleeds in other ways.

 

“Notice. Lake Kills”

After 26th December, 2015

Rashid, 22,

and his friends

are loping into the lake

as if the water is air,

they are buoyed by a sloe wave,

fingers teasing the tip of a crest,

and we never see them again,

this version of twelve, strappling men, laughing,

gliding into the lake,

how their onyx skin caught the last fires of sun,

how the water embraced them

before they came flopping                          ashore,

like a shoal of blotted Nile Perch.

their corpses surfaced in 24 hours

defying the 3 day rule. Bodies, bobbed, in death triumph. Dark. Still.

 

The post mortems said:

no external injuries

no haemorrages

distendended lungs

Dead. End of story.

 

And we were sucked back                        into the heaving land

 

If there had been an owl

My son

died

the death I should have died,

quietly

– he went –

in his sleep.

 

on that morning

the sun shimmered

like it had showered in gold –

 

I would have understood

 

if there had been an owl –

two hoots (one for each year

he breathed).

and no sun –

for the eternity he would die.

 

 

About the Author:

Lillian Akampurira Aujo is a poet and fiction writer based in Kampala, Uganda. She is the winner of the 2015 Jalada Prize for Literature for her story, “Where Pumpkin Leaves Dwell,” and the 2009 Babishai-Niwe Poetry Award for her poem “Soft Tonight.” Her work has been featured online in Prairie Schooner‘s “Shoes” issue, The Revelator Magazine, Bakwa Magazine, Sooo Many Stories, the Bahati Books anthology Your Heart Will Skip a Beat, Jalada’s Afrofuture(s) anthology, Jalada05/Transition123, and Omenana.

Her work also appears in print in the Caine Prize 2013 Workshop anthology A Memory This Size; the Femrite anthologies Wondering and Wandering of Hearts, Summoning the Rains, and Talking Tales; and in the Babishai-Niwe publication A Thousand Voices Rising. More of her work is forthcoming in the Kenyan publication Kwani?

Her poetry has been translated to Malayam, and is also set to be taught to Grade 8 students in the Philippines as part of a Contemporary African Poetry class. She has been a mentor in the WritivismAt5 Online Mentoring program. She is a 2017 Fellow of the Ebedi Residency in Iseyin, Nigeria.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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