CAN YOU SPEAK YORÙBÁ…?
I ask my father the word for “thief” in Yoruba.
He says olè, says it also means “lazy” [ọlẹ].
Ask him for “rain”, he says òjò,
that it’s the same word for “coward” [ojo].
It’s been said that you begin to master
a language when you dream in it.
I ask my father if his mother visits his sleep,
searching the dark with his face for her hands.
Faithful as nightfall, my father doesn’t answer.
Calls me buruku, a word he won’t translate
but I know is a rebuke by the way it undoes my name.
So, I slip the word, heavy as a shotshell, into my mouth.
There are other ways to spell silence:
a faceless hunter moves towards a black fawn.
Snow renames the landscape, but there isn’t a word
for “snow” in Yoruba. Language retreats where it isn’t felt.
A buckshot rings its bells to the sky. A herd of deer scatter
the day’s remains & are chased by their panic into the night.
I ask my father how to say “yes” in Yoruba. He says
béè ni, but that it also translates to “It is so”.
The hunter moves as the fawn moves: through the procession of tress
taking aim between the eyes. My bleeding skull knighted to the floor.
Forgive the tongue that flexes towards what it knows best.
Ojo, ojo. I kept saying “coward” when I meant to say “rain”.
INTERVIEW WITH THE AMERICAN / NIGERIAN
Your voice [ ] [ ] is highly engaging and intense. What is the [ ] process of this?
We spend our lives running away from or towards a truth. Anthony Ragler tried to rape me in my sleep____ then tried to punched the truth down my throat. Throat being a wound. Wound being another word for “father.” The dark space my father left behind is a father. The dark space his father left behind is a father. I felt the night’s soft flesh attempt to enter me. ____I can’t tell you if Anthony Ragler finished what was started -------. The hunter still gives chase, a specter splintering through the bramble. From my eye’s pocket, hunters stream the forest, snow memorizing the game of venery: a black fawn closing the distance between capture & dawn, men trampling the landscape into sirens & dirt. I understand now: some men prefer it this way. Fucking tastes sweeter to them when it’s something they’ve stolen. Between his panting, Anthony Ragler heavy in my ear, I want you to remember what this feels like. ----- For months after _____ nightmares flooded my eyes. “Why do any of us return / to that which has promised to slaughter us?” I am a Black woman. No one is coming to save me ----- “This story is not about you taking this repulsion / from me / but about this yearning / which both opened me & nearly killed me.” What kind of desert was I to believe thirst has only a single tongue? Nigerian men fetishize my accent: Your voice is clean like water. I like your mouth, Oyinbo. It sounds so foreign. Nothing like the way we speak. I move towards what is pertinent to my survival, how I dig my true name out of the dirt.