All Life Amaze Me

It was this year I made a decision to really be here. October. I was almost involved in an accident on my way back from work and, surprisingly, I was scared. In the past, while travelling and the vehicle swerved off the road or almost had a collision with another vehicle, I’d just close my eyes and wait for the bang. When I opened my eyes and realised I was still here, there was always a tinge of disappointment.

I was not depressed, not clinically, but I just wasn’t enthusiastic about the concept of living. Of being present here. For what? For what? What are we doing? What’s all this for? But that day, I opened my eyes and was grateful that the driver of the vehicle I was in quickly veered off the path of an oncoming trailer.

Looking back now, I attribute that moment to the point when I decided to be more present in my life. Nothing had changed, nothing big had happened in my life. I had lost my sister in February, there had been disappointments, I was struggling financially and life really wasn’t great. But in that moment, scared, I opened my eyes relieved that I was still here. At some point after that day, I started to think, since you’re still here, why don’t you, you know, really be here. I thought I could try to be deliberate about life, about living, instead of just going through the motions.

For as long as I can remember, since I was a child, I have struggled with being here – present I mean – in the world and in the moment. And it shows in small and big things.

The things that I find fascinating are small. Like watching two strangers dance in harmony, rain water flowing in glassy curls or leaves rustling, carried by the wind as though in a hurry to go home.


One evening in 2016, I finished reading one of my favourite books of all time, My Name is Lucy Barton. Having cried and laughed and paced around my room dissecting a sentence, I opened the door and stepped in the rain. With hands in the air, face lifted to the sky, I screamed the last sentence of the book “All life amaze me.”

The world is fucked. And adulting is frustrating, but I’m grateful that, 25 years on, I’m still amazed by the mundane: strangers dancing in harmony, rain water flowing in glassy curls, how I spontaneously burst into a song/dance, jumping and clapping and laughing like a child.

A friend took this image at Badagry Beach earlier this year. Whenever I remember that evening in the rain, I return to this image – me in air, forever frozen in an instant of wonder. All life amaze me.

We always think we have time

I sit beside him on the long sofa as he talks about a particular day in his life that I have now made my own memory.

“It was the one-year remembrance of my mother,” he says. “Everyone was present. It was a grand party. In the middle of it all, I carried you,” he looks into the distance, the smile on his face isn’t the type I’m familiar with. This one is lighter, there’s a certain ease to it. “I carried you everywhere. You were just about three.” Then he looks at me. “You’re 25 now. Ah, how time flies. How time flies.”

I imagine myself in his arms, surrounded by a crowd with blurry faces. He holds me as he goes about attending to people, he holds me still when he sits at a table laughing with his friends as they fondly talk about moments shared with his late mother. The images warm my heart and now we’re both smiling at the memory.

“I’m sorry I didn’t remember your birthday yesterday,” he continues. “Bisi was always the one reminding me of everyone’s birthday. Even my own, I sometimes don’t remember.”

“It’s fine,” I say, thinking of all the relatives whose birthdays I need to find out.

Bisi. The name has come up every time I have been with him since she passed. The previous day, the morning of my birthday, I sat across from him in his room. It was exactly a month since the funeral. I wanted to remind him it was my birthday, instead, I asked him about his life.

“Bisi once asked me similar questions,” he said, his eyes far away, as though there are things he’d rather not remember. “We talked about it. It was only less than a year ago.”

It struck me that she also was curious about these things. What did she seek to understand? Was she working on something? Did she finish it? Or did she put it off till later, thinking she had time? As these questions careened through my mind, he spoke on, gently. I watched his face, his hands. The fore and middle fingers of his right hand have an interesting relationship. Sometimes, joined together, they point to the space in front of him, as though signaling to the disappointments of his life and telling me to look. Look, look, don’t do that! I usually don’t have anything to say when I’m with him. I just want to watch, listen to him talk about his life and ask questions. There has always been this nagging feeling that we’re running out of time. Each moment feels like the last.

For about two weeks leading to my birthday, it was difficult brushing off the feeling of anxiety. What am I doing with my life? Am I going to ruin it? What’s even worth celebrating about this birthday? There is the day of birth, after it is a continuous transition to the day of death. I don’t know how much living I am doing or how much I should be doing. What I do know is that whatever will occupy the space between these two days is majorly dependent on me. My mind wanders, as it often does, to the day of the funeral. All of us clad in white stood around the casket. “We’re not mourning,” said my sister, “we’re celebrating Bisi’s life.” True, true, we nodded. Sis. Bisi lived a phenomenal life and we were here to celebrate that. But this acknowledgment neither stopped shoulders from shaking nor dried the tears running down faces.

Those words have since stayed with me. We’re celebrating Bisi’s life. Deaths and births as a celebration of life. I was holding my sister T’s hand as we all walked out of the cemetery. “Again, Happy birthday,” I said. She smiled. Someone announced at the back that it was her birthday. “Oh, yes. Happy birthday, T,” chorused everyone. “Happy birthday. May your days be long. Happy birthday.” Birthdays and funerals, life and death, bleeding into each other.

It’s another year to live, I thought to myself while lying in bed in the dark a few minutes into March 26. Maybe tomorrow, I will wake up burdened with anxieties for the future, but today, this day I turn 25, I will let go of worries and celebrate my life. Because life is for the living.

Beholding my own image

Something is happening inside of me. Some changes in the way I think, the way I see myself, the way I see others and the way I view the world. There’s been so much going on that I often run to my diary to make sense of it. I don’t want to imagine a world where I am not writing. And I’m not talking about publishing books – of course, that’s a dream I hope will come true someday – I’m talking about just putting down words for myself, pausing to make sense of the world around me.

As much as I want to tell great stories and get published, I don’t know if I will be able to carry on. I don’t know if the rejection emails will finally convince me that I can’t do this writing thing. Perhaps my anxieties for the future or my laziness will make me follow a totally different path devoid of constant nagging to write. I don’t know this for sure. But one thing I don’t ever want to let go of is the ability to have a conversation with myself, to attempt to capture in words the feelings that threaten to rip me apart.

I know. There’s so much to see in the world, so much to be excited about and maybe there isn’t a need to get fixated on just one thing. Why do that when you only need to take a few more steps down the road and other things will call unto you?

Sometimes I write to understand something, and at the end of it, I’m still as confused and clueless as I was in the beginning. But the great part is that I have written it down, I can return to it in the future, perhaps it will have a new meaning to me then. But how much can my mind hold in the present if I don’t make any attempt to record things? Writing for myself helps me understand the world and myself better, it’s like holding a mirror to behold my own image.



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May 2016

The woman had something to tell everyone. Her green ankara wrapper was almost falling off her waist, revealing her black underwear. One end of her scarf that was hurriedly tucked behind her ear had removed and was now floating on her shoulder, beads of perspiration covered her face. But she did not care about all that. She had something to tell everyone in the market, and that was all that mattered. “Ejowo, e ran mi l’owo,” she said. She would appreciate whatever amount we could give. Cancer was slowly eating her sister away.

I beg you. God bless you. You will not die young.

There was an urgency in her pleas, in her prayers. I saw a few notes squeezed in her palms, mostly twenty naira. As I watched her, I suddenly came to the realization of how much humans fear death. How we resist and fight it with all our might, despite being aware of our mortality all our lives. Seeing her in that moment made me think of my aunt’s husband. Cancer, too, was taking him in pieces. I imagined him lying on the hospital bed, his wife holding his hand, watching his chest rise and fall.

One of the saddest things that can happen to someone is to die and be forgotten—forgotten as though they never existed.

When I saw that woman in the market, the other thought that came to my mind was: how fortunate it is to have someone in one’s life who would do anything to help them stay alive. I was reminded that with family, we have people to fight for us to keep occupying a space on earth. The twenty naira notes might not amount to much in furthering her treatments. But her sister had her, she had her, and she was not going to fold her arms and do nothing. She was going to keep begging until she had raised the money needed. Perhaps her sister will survive, perhaps her body will surrender to the cold, crooked arms of death.

September 2016

At my aunt’s husband’s funeral, family related by blood, and family chosen, came from far and near. Not only to bid the dead farewell and ensure he had a befitting end, but also to comfort the living. People talked and laughed with my aunt. Although there was little anyone could do to assuage her feelings, they wanted to share in her burden. It was as though in carrying her bag and serving her food, my life became more useful. As I prepared to leave a few days later, she called her driver to drop me off at the park. There was a sudden urge to say something, anything. What do you say to someone who just lost her lifelong partner? The car jerked to life. It was time to go. I turned around and realized she was still standing where we said our goodbyes, watching me. “Take care of yourself, ma,” I said. She smiled and replied, “I will.”

As the car drove out of the compound, I remembered how, the day after I arrived, everything around me felt faraway: the clinking of plates and cutlery, the voices, the entire house suffused with aroma of bean cake. I walked around the compound, thinking of how his feet had walked those places. Memories started coming back to me. In one, I was in the living room with my cousin, his last child, watching Drag Me to Hell. He came into the living room and, in wonder, asked why, of all movie genres, it was horror we decided to watch in the middle of the night. He smiled and returned to his room. There were other memories, but there was none in which he was not smiling. His smile, that smile that made you believe he truly cared about you, had burnt in my memory.

Hands that Bind

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The girls in my dorm sang Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, as someone drummed on a wooden surface. I stood in the middle of the room twisting my waist, when from the window, we heard, “Will you keep kwayet!” We paused but did not keep quiet. We whispered, “Will you keep kwayet,” to each other, mimicking the voice of the matron on night patrol, and stifling laughs. After she walked away, we resumed business. It was still my turn to dance. In that moment, I overcame my self-consciousness and danced with all eyes on me. I rarely dance in public because I still feel self-conscious. But when I do, I remember that night in secondary school and I feel light and free.


In this photograph, we rest our heads against each other’s, you in a blue swimsuit; me in black, at Tarkwa Bay Beach, where the waves roll and froth like white foam. We roomed in the same dorm in junior secondary school; bunk beds joined so we lay side by side, the ceiling nearer us from our top bunks. While others slept, we traded stories, gossip, and laughter. You are in my earliest memories of holding hands. Sometimes, while others went to the dining hall for dinner, we took long walks, hands laced together at fingers and talked the way teenagers do: in earnest and in jest. You are the reason holding hands has become a lifelong habit. I peer at the picture once more. Even in the water, my right hand is on your elbow.


One night in our first year in the university, we dressed up and headed to a room full of teenage bodies pumping hormones and loud music coaxing hands into the air. I was dancing with a guy when another guy stood behind me. In seconds, I was sandwiched between two sweaty, gyrating bodies. My eyes searched for her across the room. There. Also sandwiched between two guys. Our eyes met. We slipped away from the crowd. Side by side, we sat outside, silence wedged between us. Cool breeze brushed against our skin as trees swooshed around us, and above us, the big moon watched.


I used to tell my friends, “If you’re going to sleep on my bed, your legs have to be clean,” and they could not understand why dirty feet irritated me so much. One night, in my room off campus, three of us sprawled out on my small bed and talked about the future, how our hard work would translate to wealth and travel. We promised to make time to hang out no matter how busy our lives became. Someone was supposed to sleep on the other bed across the room, but when I woke up, it remained neatly laid. Perhaps our tangled limbs heralded the future we had planned hours before, the connections we would always share. For once, I didn’t mind seeing dirty feet on my bed. Maybe I even smiled.


Back then, physics and chemistry tried to make school frustrating for her. I didn’t know what it felt like to pour effort into something and not get the desired result. When she cried, I held her, wishing I could share my good grades with her. After secondary school, we proceeded to different universities. When we met again, she asked me about school.
“I haven’t been doing very well,” I replied.
She looked at me for an infinitely revolving second, “What happened?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know.”
She held my hand, “Kemi, you have to do well.”
I didn’t know what to say, but I knew she understood this kind of struggle and heard my unvoiced frustration.


For weeks after we broke up, I didn’t tell my friends. All I wanted was to heal from this thing I mistook for love. Then I told them.

What? Is he out of his mind?
How could he have done that?
Kemi, you have to let go, that guy never even deserved you in the first place.

Two years later, she still says, “He’s such an asshole.” I want to reply, “Babe, relax. I’m long over it,” but I smile instead.


On one of our evening walks in senior secondary school, I asked you about your biggest fear. “Old age,” you said, “wrinkles, shaky knees, and dementia, that’s scary.” I imagined myself, grey and waddling to my favourite chair in the living room, but I was not afraid. My biggest fear is getting old and looking back at empty years of tedious inaction, never having achieved what I was created to do, and wondering if memories of Shakira’s Whenever Wherever, are phantasms sent to tease me.

First published on Livelytwist

Reading Sylvia Plath


Reading Plath was quite difficult in the beginning, but there was something about her soul that I found myself clinging on to. Her words feel like a voyage of discovery and insight. To call her poems just “confessional” would be to underestimate her work. Plath loves to push to the extreme–humour, irony, pain. Her fluidity of language, use of metaphors and intensity are three very notable elements in her work.

She often employs descriptive words and metaphors to create the world she wants to take her readers. The imageries are astounding. Her sarcasm, humour, wit, gut, can be seen all through the pages. Some lines of her poems now live in my head:

“Always in the middle of a kiss

Came the profane stimulus to cough

Always from the pulpit during service

Leaned the devil prompting you to laugh

I observed some transitions in her works:

  • There were some villanelles in earlier poems but I did not see any in her later work
  • Her allusion to natural elements like the universe, sun, moon, was more apparent in her earlier works compared to the poems she wrote between 1956 and 1963.
  • Her later works mirrored more candour and intensity
  • Use of rhymes in her later works compared to earlier ones was also evident

She has become one of my favourite poets. On some days, I run to her words. Her poems amplify our sameness and differences. This collection of 274 poems communicate her pain, loss, joys. The part I enjoyed reading most is the section: “Juvenilia.”

Also, she has an indirect and direct way of alluding to things, incidents, encounters and experiences. In Stillborn, she metaphorically describes her dissatisfaction with her poems:

These poems do not live: it’s a sad diagnosis.

They grew their toes and fingers well enough,

Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.

If they missed out on walking about like people

It wasn’t for any lack of mother-love.

I find it unsettling that many people view her poems through the lens of her mental illness and suicide. She writes with both cheerfulness and gloom about a range of topics: love, marriage, literature, depression, suicide, nature, feminism. Her words are raw. It’s as though she speaks from a place of isolation, like a voice crying in the wilderness. I also observed the use of two particular words in several poems: “great” and “clock.” Plath was one of a kind and this is a collection I know I will keep returning to.

A Measure of Silence #5: This Is Mine

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After My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

  1. There is the question of how children become aware of what the world is and how to act in it. How do you even know what you look like if the only mirror in the house is a tiny one high above the kitchen sink, or if you have never heard a living soul say you’re pretty?
  1. While it is said that children accepted their circumstances as normal, both Vicky and I understood that we were different. We were equally friendless and equally scorned, and we eyed each other with the same suspicion with which we eyed the world.
  1. Her mother had not treated her well, she said, and so when she had her first baby she became very sad, and her psychiatrist told her that she was feeling grief because of everything she had not received from her own mother.
  1. A few years ago I went there not to look like my mother. The doctor said that almost everyone came in the first time and said they looked like their mother and didn’t want to… She put tiny needles into the wrinkles by my mouth. You are beautiful now, she said. You look like yourself.
  1. The rage of my girls during those years! There are moments I try to forget but I will never forget. I worry about what it is they will never forget.
  1. I think I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our lifetimes, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart: This is mine, this is mine, this is mine

A Measure of Silence #4: Run


Noah Salloway in the TV series, The Affair, sits across this woman in her office, trying to understand how he got to this point. He was a good, faithful husband with four kids, but just within a year, he had cheated on his wife of twenty years, moved in with the woman he had an affair with, and was already at the verge of sleeping with another woman.

Maybe, he wonders, the traits – ego, intensity, drive – that make some great men achieve extraordinary feats are also what lead them to cheat. But should it matter? After all, in the grand scheme of things, they would have touched lives and made remarkable impacts in their generation.

I find their dialogue quite interesting and engaging. “My father,” he says to the woman, “told my father-in-law he was also an artist but he gave up in order to care of his sick wife. But no, it’s not true, the man did nothing for his sick wife. My sister and I did everything. He never cheated, and so genuinely thinks he’s a fucking hero. He was a delinquent father and a terrible husband though. Fuck him, because if that’s what being a good man is, I don’t want any part of it.”

“It makes sense to me given the history you described that you might have developed skepticism about fidelity as a virtue,” said the woman, Noah Salloway’s psychotherapist

This also makes me wonder how often the past judges the present. Faster, faster, we run from something, only to meet it in front of us. Perhaps it takes more than sheer determination to run away from some things. Perhaps, it’s not everything we can run away from?

A Measure of Silence #3: Don’t leave home


Image Credit: Silent Man

The past never lacks proof: old clothes, game boards, letters, and photographs. Materials that bear witness to who we once were, what we once held dear. On the bookshelf in the corner of the living room was a photograph of a boy who was now a man. He grew up to the realization that freedom, the thing he sought the most, would not be handed down to him – especially not by his father. He fought to get it, letting go of everything else. In the face of the five-year-old boy in the photograph, this old man saw someone who would become who he failed to be. Refusing to allow himself to live in the shadow of someone else, the boy, who was now a man, had said to his father “I will not live my life trying to make up for your failures” and left the house. As this old man stood in front of the photograph, remembering the words his son said to him, he swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “Such an innocent child, how could he have resisted so much,” he said to the photograph, tracing its frame, as his wrinkled fingers searched for solace in the image of the now grown man who has vowed never to come home.