lately my grandmother has been practicing her english with the phrase:

no one should have to die with pain and suffering

the pencil marks bow through the pages so earnestly

she laces her tongue with the bloodline poison of her oppressors

when she speaks she stumbles over the shackles of words that are only meaningful when the butcher understands her


her eyes watch the dance of finger and pen when I write

with a fierce hunger she asks me to teach her

I long to erase every colonized vowel

flush adaptation from my gums

speak with the drumbeats of my ancestral language

but the ink keeps flowing


sometimes I believe that she rebels. That the way she stirs verbs pronouns, and meaning together in a perfectly incorrect stew is her knife in the throat of every imperialist slinging dictionaries like bombs into the music of our history


she tells me of the years after British occupation

a country left in pieces all in the name of peace

she’d tell you you’d never seen anything like it

brothers hacking brothers into splintered marrow  

their limbs waving flags for every delta village seeking retribution in the wake of independence


she would tell you

civil war follows you everywhere

fancy commercials and t-shirts are not kevlar vests

a popular song and crying child cannot keep limbs attached to bodies


Africa is an endless womb

not all of her children can be kept in boxes to be “saved” by UN aid

those bullet-less guns are only match-sticks lighting the Sahara Desert on fire

Nigeria is consuming the barrells of your rifles

Our bellies are gorged with your politics but how long can we survive on rusted gunmetal


my grandmother came to America seven years ago

all she knows of the American dream is the dollar store has everything you need

trade your ankara for blue jeans so they might stop staring

when they try to cut out your motherland from behind your teeth

just bandage the wounds and keep walking

you must now learn their language

you need scholarships to learn their language




she can tell you

genocide is now a lucrative weapon

Western society wields it so well

save the children: take their natural resources

Africa is just a village marketplace full of war criminals and starving babies

Making their appearance on television when the death toll reaches 20,000


Africa is an endless womb

her offspring are currency

spend enough and Suburban mothers will match that in dollar bills/ pounds sterling

perhaps they don’t know they are paying for ammunition


In 1998, America held their guns to the backs of Congolese and Rwandan heads

but their shots were only flesh wounds

it is a slow death for the refugee, the dark-skinned immigrant

the country with blood diamonds soaked in oil

where the people are just 70 cents per head

this is true genocide

this is temples burning

my grandmother understands this

yet prays for all our salvation anyway

no one should have to die with pain and suffering



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