—an exaltation of Igbos
People do not know what to make of me. My eyes bagging the baggage of my lives know that my nose flows from those of my kith and kin. My skin, akin to Hispanic, knows that if you stop, frisk, print my DNA, it will mint, scent, screech Igbo. On my neck is a bone, hanging on a rope the colour of my race. Still, people do not know what to make of me. So, they ask, Where are you from? Are you biracial? I say, No, I’m from Igboland. I wait. They resin their quizzing to the roofing of their mouths, smiling worldly-sized smiles, pretending they know when I know that they don’t know. Some allow their thoughts to sieve through their teeth and sting my ears. Where’s that?
I tell them of wonderful eighteen-o-three when their wandering people harvested my wondering people, as though we were bunches of bananas, and piled them into the Wanderer. I tell of that day in Dunbar Creek when the sky bled tears and the ripe sun rent the air. Because Idemmili, Isis, if you please, Goddess of the seas, and of me, freed a stentorian roar, singing her children home. Not even the whip, the whipping, the weeping, stopped them from hearing their mother. Not even the chains on their necks stopped them from looking back at their mother. Not even the chains on their ankles stopped them from marching to their mother, sinking in their mother, drowning in her body. For death is easier than slavery. I tell them that that day, Igbo heads spread like meatballs in spaghetti, on the lathered, foamy tears of Chukwu.
We stare eyeball to eyeball. My smile exhumes the obscene screen on their faces. They shake their heads. They blink. They smile. They say, Oh, you’re from Africa? I say, No, I’m from Igboland. They say, But that is in Africa, right?
I tell them of eighteen-eighty-eight. I tell them of Anioma town, where a maze of flowers wafted under the boiling sun, green leaves oiled under the boiling sun, decomposing bodies composing maggots under the boiling sun. Anioma’s red earth scorched ndi Anioma’s bare feet. Their shoulders hung dazed from days of incessant torture. Their ripped backs bore the marks of the beast whence their pride and humanity leaked. It was from the rawness of those pulsating wounds that they heard the language, the commands, even the kindness, of the beasts. Hate boiled their blood. Hate stewed their hearts. Hate cooked their fate. For that day, in eighteen-eighty-eight, the beasts-of-burden stopped walking, refusing to move the beast-of-scourging a step further. Stuck in a static hammock, the beast-of-scourging shot one of the four beasts-of-burden. Their race, once again, bathing in the blood of my race. Calamity defeats a man. Calamity defines a man. So, the beasts-of-burden burdened scourges on the beasts-of-scourging. A mortuary and a cold room meet in meaning but for the meat in the fridge. In Africa, in America, slaves wore no shoes. Hell, even horses wear shoes!
We stare misty-eyeball to misty-eyeball. They shake their heads. They walk this way. I walk that way.
Eziokwu bụ ndụ.
[This piece was selected by John Haggerty. Read Kasimma’s interview]