"So, How Does It Feel to be a Citizen? Or, The Day America Asked Me About My Mother & I Said: 'Who? I Do Not Know That Woman!*'," "the day chinua achebe met james baldwin," and "Mama Say"

So, How Does It Feel to be a Citizen? Or, The Day America Asked Me About My Mother & I Said: "Who? I Do Not Know That Woman!*"

To be a naturalized American citizen is to feast on the fattest part of the cow. It isn't the whole cow
but your plate is licked clean. You leave no bones on the plate. You chew until there is no memory
left of what it was you were before this. And do you because of this call your mouth a traitor?

 

 

 

 

*

I swear I did
not know I would
have to swear

off loyalty to my
mother’s land. Tiny flag
in hand & a chest
full of questions, I looked
through my father’s face

(like I remember
doing my mother’s
purse for something not
but that I could claim as mine)

for an answer I could
not find. Only his shoulders

spoke in what I could
translate as a surrender

to fate. And the entire room of aliens
at the oath ceremony sings the anthem
as loudly as each could. I suppose to

prove who is more human or
American. And my mouth

still, even now, 4 years later,
cannot find the words

 

 

the day chinua achebe met james baldwin 

james, you were /right to call yourself /a kind of Jeremiah /you who spoke
without fear & with /eloquence & clarity /& intelligence like of ancient
african griots & old testament /prophets /your mouth a burning
bush & don't the embers /of your critical intelligence

brightly burn still /long after you and i /will have become ash
we're still singing / stuck in our throats /the song of the white
man - the conductor /in this sad orchestra
we call his world /and we don't know

what to do but chew /and digest his book
& i hate to talk /about his hands
again, but it's down/ our throats but not
much makes us gag /these days i suppose

long before i met you /i went to rutgers
and met the invisible /man, & the darker
brother who too, sings /america, & the brown
girl who lived in a brown

stone /& the one who shed/jones like dead
skin & clothed /himself in blessing, a force
of character /but none of them
were like you, james /two decades after

my country's freed itself

from the tight grip of the colonial
lord (forgive me, /there i go again
speaking /about his hands), i meet you
& james, i believe you /

when you say okonkwo is /your father /& shall we speak then
of our fathers /& how the miracle /of

how they got over continues to baffle us

have your say, mister /baldwin /go ahead, we'll make
our entire bodies ears for you / make this day / the day you speak
of white supremacy / & how it has /had its day / o sing, james
of the day /past and gone / oh sing us through /and out
the night's unlatched jaw / & we will walk, /though tired
weak, /& worn, through / the storm with the undying
embers /in your cry & call

to forever guide our feet
and keep us warm

 

 

Mama Say 

she scared       say: she seen the way I talk to White
America           & she real concerned that I’ma end

up starving if I keep biting the hand that’s feeding

me                    say:     how White America not gon’
slap the spoon outta my mouth take     the     plate

away from in front of me        & smash the whole
table                mama say: hmm     Ayokunle be

careful             say: remember you a foreigner
            the people you ‘fighting for’ don’t even be

fighting           for theyselves like that             I say
well                 I’m a black man in America     so I be

fighting for myself      too        mama say why
White America?                        I say who else?

And I wanna say                       I’m fighting because

every time I step out of the house
                                       my return ain’t guaranteed

And I wanna return
                                      Don’t you want that Mama?

I seen the way your face light up

every time I return
                          no matter how long I’ve been away

from home
                       It’s like the day
                                    I was born all over again

Ain’t that why
                         you named me
the joy that fills the house?

 

 

Ayokunle Falomo is a Nigerian, a poet who uses his pen as a shovel to unearth those things that make us human, a TEDx speaker, an American, and the author of kin.DREAD & of thread, this wordweaver must! He and his work have been featured in print (Local Houston magazine, Glass Mountain) and online (The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Hive Society, Squawk Back, Pressure Gauge Press). His work has also led him to venues and stages around & outside of Texas. He enjoys walking & talking to himself (a lot) and sometimes, he is fortunate enough to have other people there to listen. You can find more about him and his work at www.kindreadbook.com

poetryBarzakh Mag