[ ] your name [ ] discovered [ ] [ ] which borders on identity & [ ]. I find them intriguing and shocking [ ] Who is the speaker [ ] & What does the speaker seek to achieve?
The speaker is me & not me to be an accent in every mouth split from my first self & made a new do you know how exhausting it is to live as mistranslation
I talk to myself often my selves we are fragmented pieces of the singular
a fabled origin it’s too much keeping track of so many lives that I didn’t even live the speaker seeks to survive translation to be whole again
[ ] do issues like racism and genderism affect you [ ]
Once a boy in primary school said I couldn’t possibly be dark as I am if I bathed everyday once a girl dark as me said I don’t belong anywhere once a boy said [you’re doing alright for a dark-skinned girl] once my mother tried to make me lighten my skin she tells [marry a white man if you want your kids to have a fighting chance] once my white boyfriend told me [you’re not really black just a dark-skinned white you talk so well] once a white girl tanned her skin & said [look we match] you see I carried these charming acts of brutality just to share with you you ask me trite questions like [does genderism affect you] when you really want to ask [why can’t it be like before when men could carry out heirloom brutalities in the dark & call it love] you want to ask [why do I have to share this world with people I was once given permission to ignore ] I can’t save you from your own pig-headed desires all useless beasts die on their backs
[ ] do you relate with music [ ] of Nigeria & Africa. [ ] do you see artistes like Brym0, Asa. [ ] you think about the legendary Afrobeat bender, Fela Kuti?
I’m an American girl with American sensibilities who used to blast Flyleaf Incubus Evanescence in her room but I also was raised on an appetite of Nelly 50 cent [Many Men was my introduction to the epic poem] Eric B & Rakim Nujabes ushered me into hip-hop & it was a country of my own making but I have fallen in love with Davido you see he’s my dream Naija man he says beautiful things to me but is far away so he can’t ruin the dream in the hot dark we kiss without touching once a boy I loved told me tales of Fela Kuti his vibrant pants his soft luscious songs he was audacious & free Fela Kuti rises from the dead to teach me shaka shaka & my wide American hips fumbled under a history I was still learning will you keep my secret I never told that to anyone I’m still discovering the music of my country forgive me I’m a Cele girl what I know of Nigerian music I know in prayer
[ ] I find history taking bias in your works. How important is history and the place of memory for you?
When the erased reclaim what was taken you call it “bias” my mother won’t even say her own mother’s name for fear of conjuring ghosts I have so many old lovers still alive in my mouth sometimes I think I’m a city of the dead for too long I let weak men talk me out of my power because I thought I could be happier as a docile creature are you listening? history never had the ambition to account for people like me how many times did history try to devour my mother her lip torn off her face she was left for dead during the Biafran war once she let me trace the scar I know it’s not equal but I must be my mother’s child because we both love a country that would rather see us dead sometimes all I have is memory & even that’s unreliable I make love & ghosts rise from the floorboards once a boy I loved betrayed me so I stole his books & burned his house to the ground I don’t know if that’s how the story actually went but that’s how I like to remember it
[ ] How do find [ ] & to what extent is [ ] important to you as an [ ] How do you find [ ] recent [ ] controversy? Do you think [ ] have a duty [ ]
There are some Nigerians who may never see me theirs but you know this is there a word for the prodigal daughter who returns “home” but is a foreigner in a country where everyone shares her face? maybe when I’m dead there will be language for what I am I learned there are some Africans who arrive in this country & no longer wish to be called ‘African’ desiring all the lush promise of this country there is no controversy in human arrogance Nigerians come to America & look down on Black Americans but want the greedy comfort of American life Black Americans want a bridge back to “home” because they know America will keep hunting them to extinction because they want to sing their lineage back into the red soil where the first hands opened up the soil for harvest but look down on Nigerians call them flat boring names we fight & do the colonizer’s work for them I have a duty to nothing not even to the truth
As an African living in diaspora, what is [ ] home? [ ] do you have a feeling of longing? How do you adjust [ ] ?
Not the space but the memory the contractor who works on the building I live in & his boys I babysit call my auntie the corner market where the chicken over rice & make it extra spicy for me long walks through Brooklyn home is wherever memory takes mercy on me you’ve probably gauged by now that I’m very good at leaving it’s hereditary my father came to this country & never went back I’m told I share my grandmother’s hands
Your [ ] [ ] is highly engaging and intense, what is the [ ] process of this [ ] . Why did you [ ] ?
[ ] tried to rape in my sleep I felt the night’s soft meat attempt to enter me I cant tell you if [ ] was successful or not for months after nightmares flooded against my eyes [I want to open the body into a new language / & so I return / Why do any of us return / to that which has promised to slaughter us? ] the process of [ ] is an act of reclamation I am a black woman which is to say no one is coming to save me [this story is not about you taking this repulsion / from me / but about this yearning / which both opened me & nearly killed me] a man messaged me about this [ ] & said it turned him on something in me wilted & perished I’ve come to the conclusion some men prefer it this way it feels better when it’s something they stolen [ I used your mouth to make myself into wet language you just felt so good I just couldn’t help myself I’m not a monster just a man all I do is respect women forgive me]
What does grief mean to you as a [ ] black woman? [ ] Does your grief take [ ] moulding . [ ] What do you do with [ ] grief ?
In February 2016 Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi was beaten to death he was “caught being gay” caught loving another man hearing this was the first time I truly understood the dangers of being what I am: queer & Nigerian to be both prey & predator
the story goes a mob tore him apart in the pictures his chest was sliced into a red country his head bashed in a red country he died the next day from his wounds it’s important to note it happened in Ondo State where my mother is from now it’s just us you can ask the real question you’re not asking me about grief you’re asking me to make my grief pleasurable for you the grief-pleasure is my mother would have joined them would have pulled him out of a car or church from his home from work or the marketplace pulled him through the brutal exposure of daylight or dragged him through the night’s hot mouth my mother would have taken the first stone bashed my skull in again bashed my chest in again yelled for the neighbors to help her blame America for this filth I get to hide inside my long skirts and full lips and feminine laughter I don’t even know my own face I love women there I said it & the only thing I fear more than a slab of concrete crushing my skull is for my own mother to curse day I was born I love her so much I grew another tongue to keep the lies flowing do you like my story is this the grief-pleasure you were looking for?
I.S. Jones is an American-Nigerian poet and music journalist from Southern California by way of New York. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole, Callaloo, & BOAAT Writer’s Retreat. She is the 2018 winner of the Second Annual Brittle Paper Award in Poetry and is a 2018 Brooklyn Poets Fellow. In 2016, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the Assistant Editor atVoicemail Poetry as well as the Managing Editor of Dead End Hip Hop. Her works have appeared in The Offing, great weather for MEDIA, Anomalous Press, The Shade Journal, the Black Voices Series with Puerto Del Sol, Nat.Brut, forthcoming in The Rumpus and elsewhere. You can find her at isjones.com