Ahmadu Damilola Ajibola’s winning entry for the 2019 International Women’s Day Poetry Contest organised by iServe2050, The Crater Library and Enugu Literary Society.
Who taught you to be silent?
Who taught you that ‘she’ was a synonym for void
Who told you, that you were a piece to a man’s puzzle.
Did you replete on the lies society fed you?
Don’t you know ‘they’ told her
She was only to be heard in the echoes of night
When there’s a crave for flesh to cleave to flesh
You are just thighs, hips, breast
Nothing beyond your skin
Go cater to the needs of the opposite sex.
Is for the girl whose rainbow was bleached to monochrome,
For the woman who grew into the confines of domestics,
For the lady who got tangled in society’s expectations while seeking definition
Her whose dreams succumbed to never because this pronoun christened you unable.
This is for the girl
Who was flicked into marriage for currency
The one who had to wear the title of mother at fourteen.
That you know the lexicon of bitter
It’s fierce dialect gender taught you
How do you construe it to your daughter?
How do you tell her that the water often laced to your cheek, the one your tongue calls salt is how sometimes you’ve learnt to speak, it’s a mark women of diverse tribes carry?
That she must learn to carry her song
Bebop to its symphony everywhere she treads because the world might be dull of music
I know that you should tell her.
Your sex is no mistake, clay is no error in the hand of a potter.
You are enough.
Do not ever apologize for being woman,
For living between the tugging seams of tender and tough
For being a testament
A tense apprehension of the holy grail,
Your masterpiece is not for the taking
For no one’s owning
‘She’ is whole by herself
‘She’ is valid
‘She’ is not a sin
Her sun baked, snow white skin is a blessing.
When again a chiding is given for being female
Tell of your mother
Tell of the long lineage of warriors before you
Tell of women who did
Who threw caution to the wind
Women who like water existed in shapes they pleased and transcended their broken into spectacular,
Of Michelle Obama
Of Aize Obayan
Of Chimamanda Adichie
Of Zuriel Oduwole
Tell them of Rosa Parks
and the battalion coming after
Of how you are the answered prayer of a generation
That the future cannot be man or woman only human
And if ever your soul faints from the magic of the gender you cradle
Hold firm your wand
Do not cower
Do not be dismayed at your sculpture
On such days wear your skin with no veneer
Bask in the bliss of every detail of your design
Trace the lines across your body and reaffirm your language
Cuddle back into being ‘ HER ‘
Into being beauty and brains
Into being loud or introverted
Into being follower and leader
Into being glorious!
Into being human
Into being woman
For you woman are deserving of praise
You woman are worthy.