Three Poems from Nigeria

May 30, 2018
A photo of a young boy holding his hand up towards a camera, partially obscuring his own face
Photo by Atlas Green / Unsplash



            for Dorsen

Never seen him in a school uniform.
Instead, each day, he wore clothes,
bearing time’s hands. Head, buried
among the greens at the back of my dorm.
His tiny hands, married
to a hoe, fell and rose
like a relentless boxer. His mum –
or so I thought – hurried
him: finish so you go fit chop. She said. It froze
my mind to think eating is a form
of miracle for an eight-year-old. I hurried
to class. His tiny hands fell and rose.

Author’s note: Dorsen, an eight-year-old Congolese boy, mined coal for the production of the iPhone. His story sparked outrage across the African continent in March 2017.


Aphrodite’s Lost Daughter

With the past slipping
Out of your palm,
You stop running,
And kneel on a tarred cloud.
The boy’s voice like ache,
Still breathing in your head:
You’re too fat, oohum se eru mi.
You look at the picture on the floor,
Look at who you once were:
Arms, the size of sprinters’ batons,
Torso, the shape
Of a coca cola bottle.
You look at who you are now,
Even with rivers
In your eyes, it’s clear,
The body is a currency
For time to spend.
Oluwa mi oo, why me? Why? Why?
Your voice, a repeated question;
Forgetting, that beauty
Has many children.
You raise your head, rain
Of honking headlights pours.


After the Sound

            after Edwidge Danticat

There was sound; the ground
Vibrating like god’s
Trembling lips.
There was sound; students,
E ma boo, mo ti ku oo!!
She called. We filled
The entrance of the classroom.
There she was, waving
A pair of desperation
In the heat-soaked air.
She led and we followed.
We led and she followed;
Digging through the rubbles
Of the collapsed building
For her agony. Digging
And digging. We found
And dragged what was left
Of him out. He was fourteen.
              Just fourteen

Photo by Shilpi Suneja

D. M. Aderibigbe is from the Ikorodu district of Lagos, Nigeria. His first book, How the End First Showed, was selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil for the 2018 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press in fall 2018. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The Poetry Review, jubilat, New American Writing, and elsewhere. He’s received fellowships from the James Merrill House, Banff, OMI International Arts Center, Ucross Foundation, Jentel Foundation, and Boston University where he received his MFA in creative writing as a BU fellow and also received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. This fall he will begin a PhD at Florida State University, Tallahassee.