SWEET MA’ALE

by Blessed Abraham

“It can’t be! I broke into tears, my knees giving way as the curtains fell off my eyes. I woke up to a blotch of tears on my pillow. I am that spoilt brat and that lovely pitiful woman is my Mother. So hard did I tremble in regret as tears kept streaming down generously. I messed up. I need to fix things, I need to say “I am sorry”.”

My eyes scan her stout but plump unkempt figure, her hair riddled with suffer induced grey hair. It was anything but silver. Her once chocolate skin now mud-hue. My eyes studied her aged frame and fallen heroes with loathsomeness, her pathetic and lowly appearance nudging me into disgust. The sheer thought of walking in the public with her, and hearing chants of “Mama Blessed” was thousand yards away from appealing.

“Blessed,” Her gentle voice, reeking of pity – a noun I hate calling out to me whilst brewing anger in my bowels. “Bikonu, follow me go market. The load go too much for me, make you help me carry some abeg.”

“Abeg! No even bring that leg. I can’t follow you, I am tired. So don’t bother me.” My voice laced with the anger. Stomping hard on the concrete floor, I walked out. Her pitiful voice followed behind me, but I was in no position to care.

Abbie’m, Nna’m bikonu.”

I entered my room and shut the door, hoping to shut off the nuisance at the other side of the door. Laying on my ill-arranged bed, rage kept gyrating in me, regrets of the words I didn’t say. Of the words I wish I said. Slowly the rage turned ruth and topped with regret as sleep ebbed me away.

•••••••••••••••••••

In a dream, I stand before a house. A column of single rooms, unpainted but designed with masterful art of plastering. Something about it felt nostalgic, but frustrating enough, I couldn’t place a finger on it. A little boy caught my attention, probably between the ages of three to four. He walked to his mum who was cooking on firewood under the violent sun, the sun highlighted her melanin popping skin like a Belle X6 highlighter would. She glittered in the sun, her skin daring the solar god. The kid tugged onto the hem of her wrapper annoyingly.

“Mommy, Mommy. Gimme tea and bread.”

“Nna’m, there is no tea and bread. But I will give you plenty fish if I cook finish, you hear?” The woman sang out, as she went back to her battle with the fire, blowing to keep it. She’d take breaks to shut her eyes from the burn and sting. The smoke trying to cut her resolve.

The kid went into a wailing fit. “I want tea and bread.”

Slumping on the floor, his wail increased into a disturbing level. I got mad, the sight of the spoilt brat’s tantrum fits erupted new flames of rage in me. I should spank him and give him something to really cry about, but fortunately for him – I can’t interfere in the unfolding events.

As I watched on, I noticed the wailing brat’s wailing reduce to a whimper, a rather disturbing whimper. Then sharp distorted inhales as he started gasping for breath, with each sharp inhale he stretched. His life forcefully getting snatched from him by a force he couldn’t match. I let out an earth piercing shout but my chords didn’t register them, all my effort to draw the woman’s attraction to her baby failed. The sight of the convulsing child’s tugs with death, the woman’s world splitting and crashing with it made my eyes burn as warm moist filled it.

I watched as she took a taste of the beautiful looking egusi soup and nodded in satisfaction, scattering the fire, oblivious of the events going on behind her. She carried the hot pot of soup whilst singing melodiously to a song I know too well – A certain woman’s favorite song.

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend I have is Jesus.

He will hear you when you call, He will help you when you fail,

The best friend to have is Jesus.

The song, the event playing before my eyes, the unconfirmed nostalgia in the air all teamed to betray me as tears welled up in my eyes and with just a blink to relieve the burn, they trickered down.

In slow motion, I saw her turn and suddenly her body froze. Her eyes shot out of its sockets as the sight of her baby, her world – though spoilt, losing to Death’s grip. She let out a heaven piercing scream as the hot pot of egusi soup slipped and fell, kissed the concrete floor and rebounded splashing on her legs.

“JESUSSS!!!” The earth’s frame would be shocked. I knew the scream wasn’t because of the hot egusi soup scorching her legs but the sight of her baby struggling with Death. With the scorched leg, she raced forward stomping on the spilled egusi soup in her first three steps, pulled her baby to her bossom and raced to the streets. Her wails drawing the neighbors, her wrapper fell off her chest. She cared less, her speed on barefoot and just shorts and bra were remarkable. She wouldn’t trust any cyclist or man to race faster enough to bring her baby to salvation.

The sight was too nostalgic, then it hit me.

My mum had an ugly burn on her legs, very similar to those that will eventually surface on those woman’s legs. It can’t be!

I broke into tears, my knees giving way as the curtains fell off my eyes. I woke up to a blotch of tears on my pillow.

I am that spoilt brat and that lovely pitiful woman is my Mother. So hard did I tremble in regret as tears kept streaming down generously. I messed up. I need to fix things, I need to say “I am sorry”.

Rushing out into the kitchen, she wasn’t there, madness tailed behind me.

“Once I see her, I don’t care about anything. I will rush and give her the deepest hug ever, I will kiss her forehead, her arm and bow before those legs. I will cry out to her begging for forgiveness. I will change her wardrobe this month’s end, I will spoil her. Let me just see her.” This I proclaimed in between tears.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

It’s now 7:48pm, Mum left since 4pm. She doesn’t stay this long at the market, maybe she branched to the church. But today is Thursday, the only thing we have in church is Youth’s fellowship – something I last attended before I gained admission five years ago.

I took a glance at my siblings watching Music videos on Galaxy TV, they were too engrossed in the videos to care about their mum’s late return, they will when by 9pm they’ve still not had dinner. My eyes fell on the news bar just beneath the videos.

The first passed, then the second. I noticed its the same news being repeated, an emergency news?

“Tanker falls in Omoku main market creating an inferno, no words or details on the number of casualties.”

A sharp javelin pierced my heart, “Omoku main Market”? That is our market, where mum is. Something gripped my heart, squeezing it. The burn was intense, my head tripled in size, my legs gave way as I slowly fell to the ground. I couldn’t rely on my nasal cavity with the huge task of breathing, so I opened my mouth to aid it. I couldn’t scream or do more than slowly die.

‘God please, I beg you! Don’t take my mum away from me. I still have a lot to say and do for her.” I prayed, hoping someone somewhere is hearing.

Knock! Knock!! Knock!!! I freeze waiting for the voice. As I prayed.

“Make Una open door for me na.” Mum’s voice, never been so beautiful and delightful to my ears in my entire life.

Blessed Abraham is a budding writer, an Electrical Engineering student from Akwa Ibom state. Loves movies and having intriguing conversations. You could reach him and read more of his short stories on his Facebook wall:facebook.com/edidiong.inemesit.7. Also read Blessed’s other story on Afreecan Read, The Awakening

 

 

 

A Collection of Mantras

Last night was cold

It wasn’t me who sat sold

Go back to that seat

It was miffed who sat heat

I want to vanish

Melt so unrecognized

I am already brittle

What could be more visible?

 

Go back to that seat

Lust hastened your feet

Across the ice-coated lawn

You came to be gratified!

Yes! The preacher says it

The mind knower tells it

Everyone quotes it

Still I can’t hold it

 

Feels like sandy soil tossed up

Returns as wet clay soil

On my head and feet

Stained and unable to wash up

It is my life; my decision

It is your courage; your approval

You drown my children

And tell me not to pooper your party

 

Open the prison gates

I fancy a guided spurt

Do not tell me I am a woman

I want to dance at my children’s funeral

My newest clothes will be on me

My panties and my bra all new

Gonna ghastly hide my nakedness

It is a day of Joy!

 

With those fingers again

Point them at me for gain

Let the ancestors be alert

But tell them you took my womb

And geered at up for being barren

In human flesh Sytx is my name

Rehearsing how to die

Dying is a skill!

 

Next Sunday in Church

Sitting in this divine laboratory

The men apportioned the right side

The women told to sit on the left

The bells shall ring

Can we sell the priest’s regalia?

I will be able to pay for my funeral

First skill in dying.

 

The preacher mounts his pulpit

I know the sermon already

Today’s service is for the righteous

“Two blind men cannot lead each other”

But you are wrong pastor!

Two blind can lead each other into a pit

Now, it makes sense to me.

Keep giggling in your omniscience

 

Two blind people leading each other

The concept of humanity and love

The heartbeat of compassion

Blindness trusts; it sees straight

Two blind people leading each other

No damn judgment will be cultivated

Each one knows they are both weak

Preacher let us go; it is lunchtime!

 

While mounting the hill in daylight

Your eyes you deafened

And your hands you gelded

I crawled on in futility

Like an ant failing to master spherical

Now it is dark! And you are a nyctophile

Bravo! On your change of status

All for my descent so you can descend!

 

Last night was cold

But your looks are now even colder

The sinner canonized and incensed

The saint is interrogated

I call blindness on myself for peace

Deafness for firmness

My lips jogs in this collective enchantment

I needed more than just a mantra!

The Author Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality

To Serve a Vulnerable God

As a child growing up in Lagos, the advent of lent, the season when everything smelled of nothing, provoked something sour in me: the fear of sadness. A rust of recalcitrance, a reluctant and furious blink at the thought of Ijeoma’s head tightly wrapped in a silky multi-colored veil that ended in two flying drops behind her like banana peels, dragging me in firm grip of my wrist, to Stations of the Cross at St. Paul’s parish, Ebutte Metta. It made my days seem overcast.

Each year I felt like I was going to die within this time of my torturous longing for Easter to come and intervene, so that these moods at St. Paul’s parish would loosen up: The altar stripped of gloriousness, the grotto looking bald, the purple Lenten hymns that lightened up remorse, the late afternoon sun that hung low and idle in the skies outside the church building while Father Raphael Kpooh in purple stole repeatedly sank one knee before each one of the fourteen hanging, story-telling arch paintings of Christ’s sufferings around the four walls of the church.

Then he would chime evenly with his tenor voice “we adore thee o Christ and we praise thee”, and Jesus fell the first time, again, and again. I felt slightly angry with Pontious Pilate and the soldiers in thick skirts, often portrayed as haggard-faced, long sharp noses, a tint of sordid guilt in their eyes. I imaginatively wished I could grab each of them by the scruff of their necks and whisper a curse such as “God will judge you” into their ears, often elongated like antennas, because Lenten season wouldn’t have existed if they had been nice people, if they had simply just let my Jesus be.

Among the most moving parts of the liturgy was the twelfth station, Jesus Dies. Chilled silenced hovered around the building. All knees and necks bow to the floor in posture of renaissance paintings. A bright light filters t
hrough the windows as though the clouds suddenly parted, and the sun came out afresh. That was when some babies remembered to cry out their “waa”, “neeh” or “eair” sound, I felt like joining them in this chorus that blended with the frozen moment when the wall clocks seemed to pause “Jesus Dies”. Even the statues in church corners would be overwhelmed by this, their smiles seemed to fade, shrink, all the tiny pink-and-blue Stations of the Cross booklets would be shut closed for the moment, then the pages would flip again when everybody finally arose.

After the final blessing, I would exchange glances with my sister Onyinye, we prayed in our hearts that Mummy won’t oblige us to wait for evening mass, her Fatima-styled scarf which covered her entire frowning fore head, fell straight and long behind her like a curtain, in readiness to sweep the floor. We seemed to share this affinity: the deep fear of sadness.

In no time, without waiting for mummy to decide, a procession of gloomy people draped in purple flowing robes floated into the red-carpeted isle, ushered forward by a backward song “Jesus my Lord, behold at lent the day…” it made me want to escape my skin. I would have to sit close to mummy, hanging my attention on the acculturated crucifix, a crucified bearded black chubby Yoruba man in his thirties tying a thick black towel.

Fr. Kpooh already had this sort of handsomeness, a handsomeness that wasn’t meant to smile, bespectacled. He preached gently: suffering, sorry-ness, sin, death, all colored the sermon. But the aftermath of this childhood drama, this perseverance, was a moment of grace. It was the thought about a vulnerable God that converted me. The thought of one who chooses to suffer when he had the option not to, a God who understands the wounded reality of my inner world.

Once again this God comes to me this year, smiles at the naughtiness of my childhood, sits in presence of his priest and listens to my confession, shows me the wounds on his palms, the marks from the crown with thorns, shows me his back, then a tired smile flickers across his lips when he says: “Now let me see yours, the one in your heart, when they dismissed or expelled you unjustly, when she abandoned you, when he beat you up, when you repeated a class, when they insulted you, when you insulted too..I know you insult a lot, when he blocked you on facebook, when your friend died. Boy, let me see”.

My willingness to be vulnerable, and to serve a vulnerable God, was what changed my life. This year Jesus says again in a confessional “Let me see, open up, let me see the wound, is it bleeding? Come, feel my own”.

Anthony Nonso Dim is a writer who was born in Lagos Nigeria, he is currentlyy working on his first novel. He is also the content supervisor for Afreecan Read. Read his previous posts here

Speaking Tongues

For Harold, it only took till he was 15 for him to lose interest in the church. It wasn’t a gradual thing, nor was there any particular reason, but one day he found himself in that humble building with its wooden benches, cement floor, stained glass windows and raised dais – Such a familiar sight once – and it inspired nothing in him anymore.

Perhaps, with the few inches he had gained while growing up his pride had increased as well. Perhaps his greater interest in being popular with girls took him away from the spiritual experience, perhaps it was the beer he’d been drinking, or the simple fact that television was more interesting.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. There were many possibilities. All he knew is that he wouldn’t do anything about it. Forget about missing out on church – As far as his family was concerned there was no negotiation.

Mr. And Mrs. Likoma were always a humble couple. Both university students and teachers, with a very strong relationship with their extended family, as was the right way to go. When it came to church however their humbleness ended: They busted out the best clothing they could, they were the loudest, the proudest, the most charismatic.

They were a power couple of the church, and if their son dared show anything other than rapt attention or respect for the services, there would be hell to pay.

But the day he lost his interest, was the day all hell broke loose for him. After a particularly uneventful Sunday, Harold simply didn’t bother trying to get out of bed.

“What are you doing, you’re going to be late.” His mother asked, opening his door.

“I’m not going.”

“Of course you’re going.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Ok…” She said. And it seemed to be the end of that, but then his father came in, nostrils flaring, all the calm wise soft-spoken nature of him a long memory gone.

“What did you just say to your mother, Harold? Explain it to me.”

Harold felt sick in his stomach with fear. No matter how he changed his tune now, it looked like he was in for trouble.

“I just wanted to-”

“Get up right now. We’re leaving.”

More knots in his stomach. Harold didn’t dare disobey. He walked meekly past his father, all dressed up in his suit, and felt a rough hand on the back of his neck, shoving him out of the room and towards the door.

In silence the family took the car and went to church. Harold had never seen his father that angry before. He snuck a glance at his mother and she resolutely stared out the window, hands over her purse, ignoring him.

What had gotten in them? Had he done something evil?

When they came to the church, the warden-prisoner style escorting continued. Mr. Likoma pushed his son into the church, and even though the service had not yet started and people were hanging about and talking to each other, they all saw the expression on his face and sensed the mood.

“Ah, morning Paul…”

“Hey, what’s the matter?”

Mr. Likoma resolutely ignored the men before coming to the front of the church.  With some unspoken signal he let his wife stand next to Harold while he talked to the pastor in quiet but firm tones.

Harold wanted someone to save him, anyone. Maybe the pastor would calm his father down. Instead it seemed that Mr. Likoma’s dark mood was contagious – The pastor wore the same expression he did, giving a subtle nod to his father, signalling him to continue with whatever this was. A crucifixion? Harold wouldn’t be surprised if someone came with some wood and nails for him.

By then nobody had spoken up and were all well aware that some sort of spectacle was about to happen. Harold was going to be disciplined against the church.

Mr. Likoma stood on the right side of his son, putting a firm hand on his shoulder.

Later, he’d feel some anger, come up with a hundred imaginary solutions to the situation where he ran away, where he stared his father down, where he begged for help, but that was only the courage that returns to a man after the danger had passed –

In this present Harold only knew a primordial fear.

The church slowly filled up. Every new comer sensed the scene and their smiles and greetings turned to questioning whispers. The pastor ushered everyone to take their seats, and led a prayer.

“Let’s close our eyes and pray.”

Harold barely heard the prayer.

And now, everyone’s eyes were open. The prayer was finished. It was time for whatever it was.

“I’m sorry for the strange scene here.” Mr. Likoma spoke, “But I wanted to be upfront about showing you the power of the devil in our lives. None of us are perfect, we all meet temptations in life and moments of weakness. We always say ‘It’s a small thing. Tomorrow it will be better. It’s just a small sin, it’s just a small lapse of judgment. Tomorrow I will pray in my room, and then I will smile when I enter the church and it will be fine.”

He looked everyone in the eye, one by one. The church members were already enraptured.

“But that is the way of the devil. He works in darkness, and thrives in darkness. My son, my faithful loyal son has been tempted. Tempted.” He toned the last word and people almost shivered with the gravitas of it, “He does not want to come to church. He does not want to pray. A demon is upon him, and sin is crouching at his door. I want all of us to come together, pray to the Holy Spirit to drive this demon out! We will baptize him with the Holy Spirit here and now, and God will work his wonders. See if he won’t!”

Harold could barely speak as his father suddenly embraced him and started praying.

His mother touched his back and started praying fervently too.

In a few moments, the entire church bowed their heads and started praying too. Some stood up, some knelt, one or two came over to touch Harold and pray as well.

Harold felt a distinct strangeness overcome him.

His fear had somehow turned into something else.

It had turned into a mixture of stage fright, of light-headedness. Was this the holy spirit?

They were starting to talk in tongues. He didn’t understand anything they were saying, and as the prayers reached some sort of cacophony, he felt a push, and as though it had been practiced a thousand times, he let himself fall.

People praised God, and Harold found himself embraced. His father and mother weeping, the church gleeful. Their emotions alight.

Later, as the service closed, everyone came to share some words with Harold. He smiled non-committedly and accepted their blessings and prayers.

More than anything, the people spoke with his parents more. There was pride there, awe. They praised their faith, and wished them well.

When Harold went home, his parents were back to being conversational, and they spoke normally the whole day. Just like that, the week came and it was time to go to school again.

What had just happened? Had he just been used for something?

Was that the holy spirit that had made him fall?

No, he knew the answer.

He knew that the fear of not reacting to all that fervent prayer was what had made him fall over.

Still, he felt nothing. But he dared not let that be known by anyone. He wouldn’t risk it again. Harold never missed a day at church again.

Somewhere along the line, he became the poster boy for church: He spoke in tongues, he jumped up and down and shouted the loudest in church. His parents were proud of him, and he didn’t need to be afraid anymore. Indeed, he seemed to be getting more popular by the moment.

What did it matter if he didn’t really believe in any of it?

What did it matter if he didn’t love his parents anymore?

What did it matter if he hid the truth about his feelings.

Perhaps he really was being touched by the Spirit. Some days, Harold found himself fine with this conclusion.

The security, the joy of being highly praised, it was better than that spiteful glare he’d seen on his father’s face, on the pastors’ face.

Anything was better than that.

Mordecai Banda is a Malawian-born science student who currently lives in Germany. In his free time he enjoys writing on a variety of topics including those related to his homeland. He lives on books and coffee.