Away From Home
I am in the midst of my tribesmen;
A brother pulls out my tongue,
Scrubs it clean of my dialect and euphoria deflates
Like a punctured tire; he says,
‘Hide your identity, don’t let them know, speak English.’
Today, I am out alone. On the bus, I recognize
The tribal marks on the face of another brother;
It’s afternoon, I find my tongue, ‘E ma kaasan o’,
He does not reply.
This night, my country has just lost to another country in
The African Nations Cup;
I am walking home with my wife,
A group of boys walks past, they ululate exultation with abandon;
Shadows fill conversations with my wife,
She tells me in a low tone, ‘This is not home for us’.
Another day, Nigeria is meeting
A brother says I pray my country loses.
I should pray. Or else, I am not safe.
I hold out a 100 note to the shop–owner by mistake;
A man says, ‘Let me see.’ I give him.
He jeers at it and at me
Others join, and now the jeering is loud
Until I am finished into a neat shame;
I am leaving. I still can hear them jeer on.
I am in a class; they love my English,
They ask, ‘You are from where?’
I say, 'I am from'
I correct an accent. They doubt it now.
‘Why did you leave your country?’
A neighbor is asking for the 20th time and each time
I reply I know the irony as if to say, ‘What are you doing here?’
Why I am brief around my neighbors’ eyes.
My wife keeps reminding me that this place is not safe,
Is not home like home.
Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola
Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola is a Nigerian poet and teacher of English who reaches out to poetry as escapism from the contentions within and around him. His poetry has appeared in Glass, Pangolin Review, Mojave Heart, Ethel Zine and elsewhere. He is a Best of the Net Award Nominee and author of Meditations (WRR, 2016).
Facebook: Ayoola Goodness Olanrewaju
About this poem
This poem is a reflection on migration (especially, moving into a totally different landscape due to economic opportunities) and its relationship with the concept of identity, linguistic liberties and expressions, searching for acceptance and, most importantly, safety.