Early morning brings the sounds of children sweeping front yards,
water sloshing in clay pots held high on bald patches of heads,
women cooking porridge in the town square,
the sound of gunfire.
Afternoon is my favorite time;
we children run out in our underwear,
dust sticks to our bare chests with sweat
as we kick our patched-up ball between splintered posts older than I am.
The sounds of small feet pounding dry ground signals the end of the game
because everyone knows what time dinner is.
Evening brings competition:
my seven siblings crowd the pot of quickly cooling soup,
sticky balls of pounded yam become glue in their hands
as they wait their turn. I scrape what’s left.
When everyone’s bellies are full we retire to our sleeping mats.
Safely nestled in my own mat, sandwiched between my younger siblings,
I look at my feet through the holes in my blanket.
Parts of my toes have gotten lighter, and I am so excited.
Wait until Mama hears I’m turning white!
Maybe when I’m completely white
we could get good blankets, ones that aren’t so cold.
The darkness closes me in, but doesn’t settle.
Night tosses and turns,
its silence is berated with artillery. I hate the night.
I want it to be the afternoon.
If it was the afternoon I could play soccer with my friends,
and catch aku with my net after the rain,
and play as long as I want. And Mama wouldn’t say a thing about it
because everyone’s happy in the afternoon.
—from Rattle #65, Fall 2019
Tribute to African Poets
Chidinma Opaigbeogu: “I started writing poetry when I was twelve years old as a way of connecting with the world around me. Over time, my work has evolved and has become more of an exploration of myself. As a Nigerian-American, it was often hard for me to define myself. I felt too Nigerian to be fully American, and not Nigerian enough to claim my heritage. This conflict within me has strengthened my desire to know more about the country my family comes from and has spurred the writing of poetry that explores key events and experiences such as the Biafra War and the rich food culture in Nigeria. I hope to continue to use poetry as a tool to explore culture and identity and to find others who may have felt that same confusion as I.”