Student Loans

I’ve become one of those
Luxurious children of European bankers
Soft and unworked
Fat on free time
London my playground
Hunting leisure on weekends
Going out not just to eat
But to be waited on
Sitting outside an exhibition
He tells me
Working class doesn’t mean misery
I vehemently agree
So why do I whisper King’s Cross
Whenever someone asks my borough
Why this guilt
When all I’ve done is
Collect cactuses
Fatten friends on black chocolate
Bathe my face in lavender
Drink saffron in Brick Lane?
It was entirely too easy to ask my country for a living
Once I left
My government so willing
To loan me debt
My uni so eager to collect a check
American affirmative action
Sitting in the gallery
He asks why I’m stressed
It’s basically free money, isn’t it?
Then tries to sell me art
Another thing that the rich seem to own
Instead I
Buy a leather jacket
Just like everyone else
Dance at Pxssy Palace and
House Jamaican youth
Eat Nigerian tapas
Meet my parents’ civil war
Cultivate French tips and
Philosophize at Chimamanda’s feet
Watch Nigerian theatre
Defend his humanity
Give nothing to the homeless
And sometimes

What’s harder than being cool?


Walk in
Skin as bright as peacock feather
Veins humming with drink,
Love loose on my tongue
Fingers race hearts when they tap and queue
Squad cranks the party all the way up
-until white girl says
That’s nice but
You’re taking up too much space
I didn’t know dancing could be anything but a conversation
Until a white man told me I shouldn’t leave the house party
Because my body was doing amazing things
His gaze and mouth all
Full of awe
Before an Afrobeat fan
Followed my wine all the way to the floor
I can do that, too
Before a white gay slipped me his number
Should I ever want to go out sometime
I give them so much life
If impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery
Then what’s a bad imitation
You don’t even desire me
You dismember me
You want my hips for yourself
What would you do with my feet
Bring them out for company?
Hump them in your cold sheets
In the middle of the night?
This dark corner is not a stage
Believe it or not
I came to grind by myself
I don’t ask for much
Just this tract of dancefloor
Where I come to stop rubbing elbows
Cramming myself into margins
Folding and folding myself into your leftover space
Here is where my body can be big
Speak free
But you find me here, too
House party capitalist
You want me to be Rihanna
Stop watching like an audience
When you haven’t even paid
All this flattery
Makes me silkworm
Soft and withdrawn
Dreaming of a strong country
Where all around me would have been mirrors
Walk out exhausted
Shoulders hunched
No I’m not crying
These are such sweet problems
They would taste delicious under a hot sun
Hustling for food and water
But they are mine
I came to party
Turns out I’m the entertainment


after Ebele Okobi

He invades my immigrant life like bug bites you discover
Just south of your most tender regions
From professor’s mouth: How will you survive this man
Shake head
Survive is what I do every day
Don African print
Listen to TED Talk
Older Igbo-American woman
Says she’s not going back
She wants to be a threat
I rouse 9 year-old Ifeanyi
Hear that?
Dream not just of success
But notoriety
These days I’m too timid to even tweet while emotional
Let the Atlantic sit like static between me and the news
But when I tune in
Even National Public Radio sounds biased
I shake pre-9/11 Ifeanyi
Tell her, America will raise you to be nonthreatening
Call it "Islamophobia"
In fifteen years, don’t whisper "Assalam alaykum"
When greeting your Emirati friend
Her scarf the color of milk
In my tweets
Trump is a lowercase noun
I hold their names at arm’s length
The truth is
It’s hard to fight a government that thinks you’re a mythical creature
The question is
How to box them with a poem
How to hold a construct between crosshairs
She said she wanted to be a threat
Constant like thorn in side
She made it sound delicious
I want to be processed sugar
The innocuous that destroys from the inside
Binge on me
Till diabetic with my ideals
My question
Is how to pull my country out from underneath him
All my people intact
How to run his people so ragged
That they race to Caucasus
How do I unlearn respectability
Once and for all
Vigilante glow-up
What if the Secret Service code for threat
Was my name?
To be a threat to his most tender parts
To make him cough up my ancestors’ blood
To make him
A ghost

Laughter from a Nigerian Mother to a Child Who Is Not Hungry

I have labored all day at this hot stove
And you will eat this dinner that I birthed
I have spent the last of this month’s check
On the good olive oil
That your new Ivy League tongue prefers
You may be vegan this and gluten-free that
But you will eat
This Maggi sweetened the tongue of the man who fathered you
Your grandmother carried this dried fish from Onitsha to customs
You will eat it
I have sliced each onion with my two hands
Blinded myself with tears for you
And you say, you're not hungry?
I laugh, because when this world mangles your name in its mouth
You will come to this table
You once feasted on my placenta
Dried both these breasts
Again, you will eat
I stink of sweat and age and oil and love of you
I did not bring you to America
To watch you fast from this food

Letter to MLK Regarding My Black Anger

On days when my body can be honest with itself
My voice scrapes my throat raw
As my hands carry my anger in the form of words & wood
What is it with the wrongfully oppressed and processions?
Jesus marching to Golgotha
Hashtag movements marching in Ferguson, New York, New Haven
You, Dr. King, marching on landmarks for years
Tell me, do they hope if we walk long enough
We’ll scrape the fight off our soles?
I read that Christian pacifists, white men
Advised you to answer the call to nonviolence
I feel some type of way about white Christians pacifying you with a religion
That “civilized” your ancestors
Did they argue that this would make you more palatable to the majority?
Measure your patience with the spoon they would feed their peers?
Tell you, Less black pepper
Keep the heat low
Somehow your nonviolence still filled them with terror
So when do we stop trying to find our fight mirrored in white faces?
Sometimes, my anger is so big it shuts all of them out
I went to a talk by Christian scholars on social justice
And all of them advised me to forgive
Where do I go when I have no forgiveness left?
This Catholic girl worries that Bible verses preaching forgiveness are opium
Begging black anger to be silent
When is it okay to say, No, fuck your breath
I am not angry all of the time
But this body carries corpses
Rice, Pinckney, Garner, Bland, McDonald are nowhere in my family tree
But they are my dead
I cradle them in the forefront of my mind
Their broken, young bodies a constant, personal weight
My anger is sane & calm & total
Used wisely, it can move institutions
Or just flood this body with relief
But not even black anger is free
My pent-up rage lives in a penthouse
It is expensive
It wears the finest watered-down words and white smiles
It is petted like a zoo animal at my place of business
It is edged off of sidewalks, out of train cars, seminars where white people take up all available space
My anger is afraid to write about our dead because some may find it too political
When exactly can my anger take off its mask?
When I see another police department and jury
Hold hands, look down on another wasted black life, and say, You ain’t shit
I feel my anger wane
The nerves that perceive wrong
Hang somewhere outside of me
My body lies numb
This is how they pacify us
Sometimes I think white people teach you, MLK
Because you allowed them to lock you up so many times
I know you did it for our sake
Some of the most revolutionary acts emerged from behind those bars
Like technicolor from an oil spill
But sometimes I wish our most celebrated civil rights heroes
Hadn’t always been so civil
Anger doesn’t have to be violent
We don’t have to be like them
But when can we claim the right
To let our fury fuel our freedom?