My mom goes on and on about how generous I am. If there is anything I give freely, it is the water from my eyes. I think of artificial eyelashes, and my eyes water. I imagine the death of a loved one that hasn’t even happened, and my eyes water. I see a man with beads of sweat falling from his face, and my eyes water. The man I love returns home after 912days, and my eyes water. The pregnancy test returns positive, and my eyes water. He is set to travel again. I drive him to the airport, and my eyes water. The transducer pries into my body, returns without a heartbeat, and my eyes water. This is me saying my eyes are dense. They are unable to differentiate emotions and situations. They react the same way to reunions as to farewells, to life as to death, to tenderness as to cruelty.
After our love slivers, I go to the place we first met in search of something with unimaginable resistance to be named. The flowers are flowering. I soothe the bleeding in my chest by reminding myself that everything has a shelf life, even love. I walk the field barefooted, press my feet hard into the ground, hoping the thorns in this garden are generous enough to share some of my aching.
Affirmation: I am capable of joy. I am capable of happy poems.
Nothing about love is a one-way street.
Fuel for my temper: A rude fellow demanding respect.
I don’t know how to be Nigerian and happy. But I do know how to posture my lips into smile even with darts salsa dancing in the hollow of my chest. it is not a superpower I am proud of.
All my prayers are immutable. Same prayer for when I wake from a bad dream, same prayer for when my unborn exits from me a breathless thing. Same prayer for when a father goes out but never returns. Same prayer for when a lover returns after a long journey.
A boy breaks beneath the weight of what should not belong to him. A boy has memorized how to put himself last. A boy becomes a man before his first wet dream. The boy is a man, a voiceless lover/father who knows not how to receive love, only to give. Today, the boy who is the man I call father calls me on the phone after I am cleansed of my unborn. The silence is deafening yet comforting. I cry me a river, and he listens.
In every story of grief, there is a loss and a gain, not necessarily for the same party. I lose my job, another takes it. Our little one dies, an angel is gained.
If you are lucky, when your lover passes, it will be in your arms – peaceful. If you happen not to be there, may the news be delivered to you by someone who has mastered the art of wrapping grief with gentleness.
My mother is an unstructured curriculum – which is to say, there is no order to the lessons we learn here. From her I learnt that love wrecks a city to save one of its own. Love does not make you walk through thorns unscathed; it makes the pain bearable.
My mother says – sleep with your legs straight. In your dreams, you need to be on your mark, should you need to run for dear life.
There is no prescription pill for a broken heart. No magic wand that erases select memories. But if you are patient, you will see that sometimes, time is capable of shifting weight.
My constitution: I choose forgiveness. I forgive me. I forgive you. I forgive me for forgiving you.
Chidera Ihekereleome-Okorie is a poet who lives in Nigeria. She writes poetry because it helps her express her understanding of the world around her. Her work appears in perhappened mag, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and IceFloe Press. She is the winner of the Nigerian NewsDirect Poetry Prize 2020. Find her on twitter @chideraIheke, and on Instagram @chidera.ihekereleome_okorie.