American / Nigerian In The Interrogation Room by I.S Jones

[        ] 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

 

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[         ] 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

 

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[         ] 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

 

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 [         ] 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

 

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[         ] 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

 

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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

 

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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]

 

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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

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