Nostalgia – A Poem By Ọbáfẹ́mi Thanni


After mornings when seeing the red eye shadow of a pigeon was enough for joy to begin fluttering.


I know I ought to tell you I miss my father,
But it is easier to say I hardly knew him.

& the truth is not the same as ease.
I long for my mother before she is my mother.

I imagine she was more tender then.
But it is true that I do not know her.

Yet, I miss her. I can tell you the first time I touched
My father’s shoulder I expected it to hurt.

I mean to say I expected to be wrong.
I expected my hands to fall through him.

I tell myself now that I wanted him to feel
Me say, again, have a safe trip.

But I expected to be wrong.
I could not expect to prevent an accident with a touch.


I miss mornings with the static of radio Nigeria
Sifting through my mother’s prayers.

The crackle of uplifting the people & uniting the nation
As I waited for the sun to return my gaze so I could eat breakfast.

I miss disobeying all the cartoon instructions,
& pushing the big red button in her Mercedes

With the flashing consequence of colour.
I miss my mother watching me walk to class.

Watching how long before I forgot her instruction to be quiet & a good boy,
Before I became myself, again.


I miss Ego Ogbaro singing for my mother.
The only times my father was baby baby baby & far away.

I miss drinking so much zobo—my tongue a blood purple testament
Of my Mother’s sweet creation.

I miss the gap between wanting & having being my mother’s outstretched hand.
I miss the orange tree & apple tree & coconut tree lining our old home.

I miss coming home to floorfulls of apples from
Our neighbours’ failed attempts to pluck from a fenced Eden.

I miss my failure to peel oranges in the exquisite spirals that Hausa fruit men did.
I miss my bucketfulls of attempts.

I miss thinking my father was a coconut—
A tenderness that demanded effort.

A hardness that broke against a wall &
Poured a sweet fountain.

I miss thinking a wall was a mine for tenderness.
I miss wanting to be a wall & running my fingers over their ears, saying, teach me.

Ọbáfẹ́mi Thanni is a genre-bending writer whose poetry was shortlisted for the 2019 Christopher Okigbo Poetry Prize. He is a reader at The Masters Review and is currently making attempts at beauty while applying for a citizenship in Lucille.  Tweets: @ObafemiThanni

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