Summer 2016 - Poetry

D. M. Aderibigbe

 

Q and A for All Africans

On a B train to Kenmore
One evening, I sing
with my black voice.
Two voices from behind
fall in love with my accent.
Two boys come to me, they own
the voices—their skin
that of a chicken whose feathers
have been pulled off with hot water.
They want to know
where I’m from. “Nigeria.”
I say. The boys laugh,
apologise for sins the next
few seconds would commit.
Then they ask:

If I lived with lions.
If I owned a pair of shoes.
If I saw or sat in a car.
If I watched TV.
If I wore clothes or walked naked.
If I bathed with soap
If I brushed my teeth
        If I ...

I get off the train with so many words
imprisoned in my mouth.
The sky is dead, but the electronic
stars of Boston streets keep
the night alive. I walk and think:

how else could I have learned to wear
these clothes, these shoes, ride
this car, wash this body, these teeth
without Africa?


How else are we seen
if not as that stubborn race
that has refused to evolve
beyond Australopithecus?

 

 

 


According to First

This is how it works in the Third
World, children cry and cry
of hunger. Mothers sigh
and sigh; the children can’t be fed.
Poverty owns their lives.
He says and they laugh.

This is how it works in the Third
World, when someone sneezes
others cover their noses;
that is what is expected.
Diseases own their lives.
He says and they laugh.

This is how it works in the Third
World, everyone walks with hearts
in pockets,
bags and purses, and like cats,
      widening eye sockets;
that is what is expected.
Crimes own their lives.
He says and they laugh.

This is how it works in the Third
World, adults know how to wield hoes
better than pens. A child knows
schools less than they know farmsteads.
Illiteracy owns their lives.
He says and they laugh.

 

 

*

 


D.M. Aderibigbe was born to an eighteen-year-old high school dropout in Lagos, Nigeria. His chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father is an APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series selection. The recipient of fellowships and honours from Oristaglio Family Foundation, Entrekin Foundation, Dickinson House, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and Boston University where he is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his poems appear in numerous journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE among others. His first manuscript is a 2015 and 2016 finalist for The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He lives in Boston where he loves it when the sun is out.

 

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.