TOKUNBO by OMOTOYOSI SALAMI

it starts in America, this year a shift has occurred
I see some Black Americans embracing African cultures, Yoruba culture in particular
some use it for aesthetics, spell “Orisa” as “Orisha”
for the first time ever
I don’t say I’m a Black American. I walk up to a priestess
and tell her I’m actually Yoruba.
for the first time, I speak with a Naija accent. it is not accurate but nobody here knows that.
I write my Yoruba name in full, Adeoluwakiisi. I put tone marks I’m sure are wrong, but nobody here knows that.

in December I go back home because
Daddy missed his precious daughter. and Christmas in Nigeria is unlike any other
I tell him I want to go to the village, I want to experience my culture
in its rawest form,
and he agrees, so I leave for the village after New Year.

in the village, my cousin Adio mocks me playfully when firewood smoke makes me cough.
when I try to lift a bucket at the public tap
and it breaks on my foot and the water spills,
he laughs and says my bones are made of plastic.
he also call me a big man’s daughter because I don’t scrape chicken bone clean with my teeth.

my cousin Awele does not joke with her own mockery.
she despises me, she tells me that I think I’m better than everyone, than them.
sometimes she would raise her nose and say
“tell us oh, if we’re not matching your standards.
we don’t mean to be so low, it’s just that
not everybody is as rich as you.”

in America, I don’t fit despite the shift,
I’m just that lousy African immigrant (that was born there) that swoops in
to enjoy all the civil rights they fought for for 400 years
and of course to the whites, nothing ever changed
I am still a hunter of lions
a sleeper on trees
a citizen of shit holes

I have one foot in this world and one foot in the next
far from here, seven seas away,
I hope you now understand why I lack true balance,
me, a shaking mass of
loud-mouth, scavenger, big man daughter, I Too Know, proud girl, booty scratcher.

 


Omotoyosi Salami is a young, budding writer and poet from Nigeria who is fascinated with Yoruba traditions and history. When she isn’t writing, she’s most definitely reading or taking a nap. Some of her poetry have been published in online journals and magazines such as Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, MerakMag, and Mojave Heart Review. She is on Twitter as @yorubasnflwr.

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