The Magic of Readers

There are no awards for readers, at least, none that I know of, but there are awards for writers. Readers buy the book that wins the writer a prize, and yet without readers, there would be no writers.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know. ― Alberto Manguel

I am indebted in no small measure to you because if you did not read, I would not write. Yes, I would scribble in my journal, but without the focus, discipline, excellence, and tenacity of the past four years. I would neither research nor stretch myself beyond the world I know. You inspire me to look for the gem in the mundane and tell it as creatively as I know how.

What Lee Hall wrote about the play, I find to be true about writing. “Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise . . .  And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.”

I view with suspicion, every writer—by writer, I refer to anyone who crafts words intentionally on a platform that another can access—who claims, “I don’t care if anyone reads what I wrote.” The search for significance is a universal pandemic and writing is one way we ask, “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?”

Sometimes, I have wondered about this business of writing and questioned my destination, but you were there to assuage my vulnerabilities and validate my journey through your comments or private messages. I learnt to count on your consistency as much as you did mine, and I am a better writer because of you.

When I conceive an idea, the meaning is clear to me, but the challenge is to get you to see it. You complement me by filtering my words through your experiences and adding depth to them that I did not recognize. Like the time I wrote a silly story, about two lovers and you showed me that it was about immigration and integration. And you were kind to me. If you thought stories like, Six Is Just A Number, echoed my life, you did not judge me but kept your perspective to yourself.

When members of the London Poetry Society asked Browning to interpret a particularly difficult passage of Sordello, he read it twice, frowned, then admitted, “When I wrote that, God and I knew what I meant, but now God alone knows. ― Ralph Keyes

Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.” That my words have drawn a few is humbling and empowering, a weight of responsibility I have been proud to own.

The best part of writing at Livelytwist these past few years, was knowing that you were going to read what I wrote and not being disappointed, Sunday after Sunday. I cannot thank you enough for your uncanny generosity.

Thank you.

 

 

 

P.s. I stop blogging on this platform today.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cup-book-breakfast-read-plan-2123710/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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She Always Will Be

Tomi Olugbemi on Loss

Dying does not hurt the dead but I fear it is different for Mummy. I often worry that she may be grieving too, floating about in some existential plane and mourning the absence of her husband and children. I chew on the meaning of rest in peace. Is it mere banality or is death a form of rest? Perhaps it affirms the belief that eternal bliss follows dying.

I was angry that barely two weeks after the funeral; a guest minister at church preached on God’s healing power. I was angry that many people believed her death to be God’s will: that He knew best, and Mummy’s time had come. I scolded myself for not coming home months before she passed and for believing that she was on a path to recovery. When Faith Evans voice came on the radio, three days after Mummy died, singing: every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you; I closed my eyes, tightened my jaw, and wept on the inside, instead of telling the taxi driver to change the channel.

In Mummy’s death, I lost the only person whose personality traits perfectly mirrored mine. I took after her in the way she swallowed her pain to soothe others and in how she folded into herself and feigned wellness even when sickness or depression ate from her vitality. We loved alike, silently but on full throttle, often walking the lines between worrying about a person and loving them intensely. We remained quiet in the midst of strangers but could be extremely goofy around familiar faces.

Grief is not as persistent as it used to be; my life continues and I have to concentrate on things besides carrying the weight of sadness. These days, grief visits in spurts, like a houseguest rather than a tenant, revealing itself as sudden re-realisations of loss when I place my mother before things: Mummy’s key. Mummy’s car. Mummy’s dresser. Mummy’s cancer foundation or while watching a mother die in a film and remembering that mine died too. Grief is the sadness in Daddy’s eyes masked with a smile when he abruptly interjects her name, Funke, while telling an anecdote about her. It showed on my brother, Dami’s, distraught countenance as we shot his graduation photos sans Mummy. And my other brother, Tofa’s wishful thinking on Twitter that heaven had visiting hours.

Like all the tragedies that have befallen me, I do not know that full recovery is sure. I do believe however, that in time, we adapt to regain normalcy by holding on to the love of, and for the departed; and conjuring their pith by drawing from past events. Thus, memories become more profound, more precious, like little vials of moonlight set aside for the days when the dark feels too present. Because even though they are dead, they breathe in reminiscence.

In losing Mummy, I am reminded of love’s eternal pursuit, its limitlessness, and how it travels beyond the boundaries of physical contact. That not even death can quell its power.  I have learned to still love what is no more. I have learned that loving another person is a life-long endeavour and that loss is not the end.

I hope that like Mary Elizabeth Frye, in her poem, Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mummy is wearing a glinting smile, saying: do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die. Although she no longer is, she always will be. Rest in peace, Mummy.

© Tomi Olugbemi 2017

Tomi Olugbemi is a poet. He spends his free time fretting about words and recovering from pessimism. He blogs at tomiolugbemi.com.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/tea-rose-corolla-caf%C3%A9-book-teapot-1871837/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Never Lose What We Value

Ife Nihinlola on Loss

It was the morning after a long night that I’d spent working on copy. I was sleep deprived and my mind was slow to react to things around me. So when my phone dropped to the floor, I reached for it sluggishly. The danfo that I rode in had body parts, which moved even after the bus stopped, held together by the ingenuity of welders and panel beaters. We were on Third Mainland Bridge at 6:30am and moving as fast as the dying engine could permit. I looked down, saw asphalt through a gaping hole, and knew I had just lost my phone.

Kathryn Schulz, in an essay titled, When Things Go Missing—a wonderful piece that stuck to my guts days after reading—quoted Abraham Arden Brill, who said, “We never lose what we highly value.” I have thought of the many ways in which this is false. We do lose things we value. They slip away from our hands, like my phone. One month without calling a friend becomes six months of not keeping in touch, and then a relationship is irreplaceably lost. The same goes for the loss of faith. It might be gradual, but the heart knows it is gone.

We groped the floor as the bus sped along the bridge. A woman with a little kid on her lap—bless her soul—kept dialling my cell phone as if calling it would make it reappear miraculously like a genie.  The bus conductor rearranged the jerry cans, wrenches, and other bric-a-brac stored on the floor beside the door. But as all this was going on, I knew my phone was forever lost. In my six months of using that little Samsung device, I’d grown to love its size, its understated beauty, and its hard metal shell that accommodates my clumsiness.

Phones have become a large part of my living, serving as everything: from library to notebook to entertainment system to life planner. Although I’m always in need of a good phone, my finances are set up in ways that replacing what is lost is a decision that has to be made with extra thought. Do I just buy a cheap phone whose loss, when it happens, won’t hurt at all, or do I buy a phone capable of meeting all my needs—which means it would have the capacity to store information that stands the risk of getting lost again?

Loss is an inevitable part of this world where everything, humans inclusive, comes with an expiry date. All kinds of loss can probably be read as a shadow of losing life in the end. “Regardless of what goes missing,” Kathryn writes, “loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.”

Loss, of any kind, often works like a flood that cracks the dam of my mind. One minute I’m sad that I’ve lost my phone and the next I’m wondering about lost friends, lost time, and the brevity of life.

My reflex reaction to loss is to do everything I can to avoid pain. I spent most of my childhood learning how to avoid connecting with people to the point where I missed them in ways that make the heart break. But emotional insulation comes with its own kind of pain. One stands the risk of becoming stunted, incapable of fully expressing the range of feelings needed to make a healthy inner life, incapable of loving. One cannot afford, for fear of loss, to shut the heart to the joy relationships can bring.

Perhaps, the ultimate lesson in the loss of my phone is that after two decades and a half spent on this planet, I’m just learning how to live and love.

© IfeOluwa Nihinlola 2017

IfeOluwa Nihinlola writes essays and short stories and has been featured in online magazines such as Afreada, Omenana, Klorofyl, and Litro. He works as an editor and is an inaugural fellow of aKoma’s Amplify fellowship. He is a fan of Zadie Smith, is looking for a replacement for Pringles as muse, and blogs at ifenihinlola

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/man-mobile-phone-person-smartphone-1868730/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

February, in Retrospect

language

February some say is the month of love. Work that should have been finished in January dragged into February and filled February with editing and late-night reviews. It meant that I put new projects on hold, but who was keeping tabs when love was in the air?

“How old are you?” I asked the man who seemed smitten by me.

“Thirty-six.”

“And you’re not married?”

He started to explain the difficulties of finding the girl of his dreams, and I realized he had read my question wrong.

“I just wanted to know if you’re married,” I said softly when he paused for air.

“Oh?” he said, and then smiled, reminding me of the way he looked a few days earlier, when he had accosted me at the supermarket with, “Let me help you, you look tired.”

I had been dragging my feet behind my shopping cart as though the sum of the hardships of living in Lagos, sat in it. He charmed me into small talk and out of my phone number.

Later when he called, his many compliments and my thanksgiving done away with, there did not seem to be anything left to say. I was surprised that a man, who had used a shopping cart effectively, could not find his voice. He must have interpreted my silence as a semi-colon because he said, “Your driver seems nice,” referring to that night when my driver retrieved my shopping cart from him and loaded its content into my car.

My driver is not nice; my driver thinks he should be my boss, but I did not tell him that. I asked him about his line of work instead of putting a full stop at the end of his sentence.

I persevered to get to know him because I am curious about people, not because my friend had said, “You never know, why not give him a chance?”

But I knew. A woman knows. I knew that I did not always want to be the one to steer conversation to a place of interest for both of us. I knew that I could not continue receiving SMS messages like this:

Gud mrn pretty. hw waz ur nyt. u r sum1 worth reely lykng. deres just sumtin abt u. hapi Sunday.

I would not, and none of my friends, would abbreviate their text messages like that. It would take too much brainpower.

“I think he lied to me,” I said to my friend, “about being thirty-six.” 

I replayed several incidents for her to decide. They revolved around language, or rather the lack of it.

“Or maybe he is thirty-six, but his brain is nineteen.”

We laughed; it seemed altogether plausible.

When our laughter subsided, I accused her of being cruel. She quoted Chavez, “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”

I was troubled by her inference. Wasn’t the shorthand way he fashioned text messages a positive measure of his ability to adapt to a mobile culture? Weren’t his text messages a genre of contemporary poetry; language is fluid, after all? Or, was it not more likely that the eight years between us equal a generation gap because as some have said, a different language is a different vision of life?

“Let’s keep it simple,” she replied. “It is either he’s nineteen or you are a grammar snob.”

In March, all my delusions will fall off.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

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A Landscape of Friendship

friends-landscape

 

Sotonye and I were friends first. I forget now, how we met, that memory superseded by memories of our friendship: the innocence of it. We walked around town and hopped on buses to places too far to walk like the old amphitheatre at the university. One afternoon, we sat together on a leather beanbag, shoulders rubbing, while we fiddled with the controls of my parent’s Panasonic sound system. We took turns to put our cassettes into the tape deck and listen to each other’s mix tape.

“Sit apart!” my mother’s voice startled us. Before I could understand the implication of her words, Sotonye had sprung to the chair farthest from the beanbag, and from me, in the living room. That day heralded the beginning of the end of our friendship, I think.

After I met his best friends, Charles and Karibi, I saw Sotonye less and less. He caved under my persistent interrogation and admitted that he had kept a distance because Charles had warned him that girls like me could derail a guy’s destiny.

I should have told him that I was hurt, but I did not. I could have pointed out that in his stead, Charles was now spending more time with me, the destiny-stealer, and Karibi was a close second, borrowing books from the library to feed my love for books, but I did not. Universities were on strike and Sotonye was convinced that his future lay in the United Kingdom. His plans to relocate consumed his focus.

Ten years have passed since the alliance—three boys, then two boys and one girl— we formed crumbled because we grew up and went to discover ourselves on the map.

Presently, Charles and I are having lunch after a chance encounter earlier in the week, and I am reminding him of how we met. He is laughing so hard, he begins to cough.

“That’s not how it happened, didn’t I meet you first?”

“You wish,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“I can’t believe I did my guy like that!” He slaps his thigh, still amused.

“Better believe it; do you know where Sotonye is now?”

“Last I heard he’s still in the UK, directing theatre productions or something weird like that. That’s what Karibi said when I bumped into him, last year.”

“Karibi . . .” I say wistfully.

“You always liked him. That traitor who swooped in when I left for school—”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was like a big brother to me.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Go away joor. He was the sweetest boy I’ve ever known.”

“That’s because he didn’t shave your head. Abeg, leave that thing!”

“We all were great friends . . .”

“Yes,” he agrees, “but you did not understand boys.”

We distill years past by exchanging phones and swiping photos, who’s this and where’s that, make our puzzle pieces fit faster. But photographs cannot capture all. Suddenly, Charles looks down at his drink and admits to being a closet alcoholic.

“It’s not so bad,” he says, looking up at me.

I nod. In the movement of my head and the steady gaze of my eyes, there is no judgement.

“Why don’t you tell someone who can hold you accountable on the road to recovery—”

“What! You haven’t changed! You’re still naïve . . . like back then . . .”

I trace the rim of my glass with my finger, uneasy and unsure of what he means.

“You still think everyone is like you, and everything is black and white,” he answers my unspoken question.

“No not really—”

“You trust easily. Haven’t people hurt you . . . enough?”

I sigh. Maybe I should not have let him look at all my photos.

“I am no longer afraid of getting hurt. But this isn’t about me. Isn’t your secret too heavy to bear alone?”

“I’ll survive. I haven’t told anyone . . . I don’t even know why I told you.”

I know why he told me. In just two hours, we have travelled back to the road leading to my parent’s house, where, unable to stop his voice trembling, he confided in me about his parent’s impending divorce.

The moment passes and we reminisce about happier times, about the place near the overhead bridge where we met in the evenings after Sotonye left. Charles would arrive with a packet of cigarettes and after he dragged on a cigarette a bit, he passed it round. I took tentative puffs while Karibi backed away as if it were a snake, reminding Charles of his asthma and me of the dangers of lung cancer.

“I gave up smoking,” Charles says. “Best thing I ever did.”

I nod again.

“You were the glue . . .” he begins.

“Nah,” I say, “Sotonye—”

“It’s true, everything was centred around you.”

He signals to the waiter for another drink. I shake my head, no.

“Do you think . . . answer me honestly, Charles . . . that boys and girls can just be friends?”

His answer is slow to come.

“I don’t know,” he says at last. “Even back then, Sotonye, Karibi, and I, wanted more.”

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

After Sorry, What Next?

sorry-construction

 

“Busyness is a myth. It’s a weapon that people who no longer love each other use against each other.”

“My schedule has been crazy—”

“Babes, I’m busy too, but I create time—”

“But I’ve been really busy you can ask—”

“Ok. Fine. The question is, ‘Do you still love me?’”

“Hmmm. That’s really not the point . . .”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It’s just that I cannot cross that line . . . Like when I was young and I had this dream . . . like I was going on an adventure. My friends and I would be running through a meadow. The grass was warm underneath my bare feet but the sun was never too hot . . .strange . . . but anyway, some kids would stop to pick wild flowers, others to rest, but I was always excited and focused on getting to . . . anyway, I would come to a stream that I could not cross because I could not swim. The other children would jump in and call out to me to follow suit, saying the stream was not deep. I woke up at the edge of the stream . . . every time!”

“You’ve never told me about that dream. It’s interesting.”

“I cannot just forget that you . . . that—”

“I’m not asking you to suddenly develop amnesia, but our memories should serve us not hinder us. Babes, haven’t you forgiven me?”

“Of course, I have. It’s just that—”

“Look, I don’t even think that we really really forget, but I think we can remember without the sting of pain . . . When my brother died—”

“Ah ah, are you trying to compare your brother’s death with—”

“No, I was just trying to illustrate . . . Never mind . . .”

“Well I don’t know. I’m not there yet.”

“Babes, it’s been nine months. Nine months with the sword of Damocles hanging of over my head—”

“You betrayed me!”

“I did. I am sorry.”

“I know and I just need time. I don’t think it’s fair for you to rush me. You hurt me deeply.”

“I’m so sorry, babes. I’ve done all you asked of me to make us work. I’ve done all I know to do.”

“Yes I know and now I’m asking you for time.”

“Do you still love me? Look at me . . . Do you?”

“You hurt me.”

“Babes, you don’t have to allow the picture of what I did blind you to all the good I did in the past and all the good I’m doing now—”

“That’s the problem you always prescribe how I should act! It’s not your prerogative, it’s mine!”

“I’m sorry. I just miss you so much.”

“Well, I hope you can understand. I just need time. Just give me time.”

“Can I hold you? Come here . . . sit . . . just relax . . . Babes, I’m not doing anything, I just want to hold you . . . that’s better . . . relax. I want to share a poem with you.”

“Sure. Whatever. You know I don’t do poetry.”

“It’s a short one, don’t worry.

And still, after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe Me.’
Look what happens with
A love like that
It lights the Whole Sky
.

Well? . . . well . . . what do you think?”

“Hmmmm. The dream . . . hmmmm. I never made the connection. Maybe that’s the reason I never learnt how to swim.”

 

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/site-website-under-construction-1561769/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Soul Food For The Hair

hair-soul-food

My hairdresser arrives my home at 10 a.m., two hours later than I would have preferred.

“My brother, ma,” she begins by way of explanation.

“Happy New Year,” I say, waving her apology aside, my mind on my missing WiFi dongle. 

She arranges her wares on the sofa—combs, hair extensions, conditioner—priority and proximity guiding her placement. I plop my iPad, phones, and a folder on the other sofa, where a full-length mirror sits. Then I sit on a rattan dining chair, facing the sofa so my reflection is visible to me.

“This is how I want my hair to look.” I lift up my iPad for her to see the photo of a model, and then lower it, using my fingers to slide the screen and zoom in on her hair.

“But, she used a different kind of hair extension—”

“Are you sure?” It looks as if they just layered the extensions to get the look—”

“No, the extensions are different.” She points at the photo and then pulls out my hair extensions from the pack to show me.

I sigh, spilling my disappointment around the room. I am not convinced, but she is a hairdresser not a magician. Although I know the photo has been airbrushed to perfection, still, I want the look.

Her hands are gentle as she parts sections of my hair and weaves them into cornrows. She knows all the secrets my full head of hair holds and an easy camaraderie exists between us.

“How have you been?”

She talks about her dream of studying film in Australia, and then tells me about her recent work on the set of a film, how an actress accused her of cutting her hair around the temples.

“Ma,” she says, “can you imagine? Me that my fingers are so light, I’m even afraid of holding hair tight!”

I nod. “So what did you tell her?”

“I was so angry! Hmmm. I didn’t say anything!”

I laugh and she laughs too. It is not odd that she swallows injustice and later regurgitates it to a listening ear. The customer has might and is always right. My validation is the closest thing to fairness that she will get.

“Don’t mind her. Your hand is feather light. I hope she didn’t get you in trouble.”

“No, the director knows I never touch her hairline while styling.”

After she completes the cornrows and starts crocheting extensions on them, I get lost in reading.

“It’s too much,” I remark when I look up to examine her work.

“It’s not too many. You will like it. Just wait and let me finish.”

A good hairdresser deciphers the subconscious desires of her clients. My hairdresser represents the part of me that bucks against conformity with random strands of blond extensions that she calls highlights. I squirm at my reflection because I want conservative hair and I do not want conservative hair. Zig Ziglar says that if people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. 

When she is done, I turn my head from side to side and smile at the result.

“How much do I owe you?”

We should have set the price before she began and I can insist on the amount I last paid. She looks at the ground before reluctantly meeting my eyes in the mirror.

“Ma, the price has increased because of the recession.”

We both laugh at our intangible exchange. I am proud of her because she has crossed a hurdle. She found the muscle to put her business before the indistinct blend of sisterhood and friendship that we share. I pay the new price without haggling.

She is young and her dreams are tall. I hope she does not one day respond to the vagaries of life with cold cynicism. Her combination of innocence and honesty is increasingly rare.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.