By the quiet waters of the suburban town of badagry/ there is somewhere called: the point of no return/ slaves that were carted away on wooden vessels beyond that point would never return home again/ I stand at the bank of the river hundreds of years later/ the skies sprinkle golden sunlight on the aquamarine fabric/ & I wonder why I feel like I’m just returning/ what stirs the waters of my troubled spirit/ what is this language the people now speak?/ what are these clothes they now adorn themselves with?/ this is how a generation was gradually taught to forget/ the history books rewritten to tell a different story/ of the discovering of the river niger/ of the kings & queens of faraway lands/ there is a way to coerce a people to forget who they are/ an inimical methodology to the way the blade of a foreign tongue descends on the language of an entire race/ this is how to do it: just tell them their ancestors lived in jungles & were barbarians/ wild/ unlearned/ pagans/ who knew not how to love or speak or dance/ tell the girls to be ashamed of their wavy coal hair/ tell them there are limitations to the beauty possible in blackness/ today, the system of the world demands that I suppress the Nigerianness in me/ excising the accent from my vocal cords/ rings of cartilage constricting my trachea till I speak like the ones who brought me education/ I am told my dreams are valid/ but can only be achieved on a foreign soil/ a land where those who bear my coal-black skin no longer pick cotton/ but are still victims of an outdated ideology/ where are the custodians of history that stood at the doorway of two generations?/ who will teach these black boys to dream again?/ who will gather us under full moons & tell us stories of gods & unnatural men again?/who will rekindle the forgotten flames of our bonfires?/ pour libation on our altars once more? /the man with skin like the sun/ came with a bible in his right hand/ & a bottle of gin in his left hand/ and departed with plundered lands in his wake/ a people denied the freedom of existence/ united in the anguish of displacement/ tethered to each other by links of cast iron/ teeth of jagged metal/ eating into feeble limbs/ who knows what tales would be imprinted into the sands of time today?/ if only my ancestors could walk on water.

Jewo Oghenetega is a Nigerian poet, writer, christian spoken word artiste, and 4th year undergraduate of medicine at the Lagos State University College of Medicine. He is a recipient of the 2023 F. Sean Hodge Prize for Poetry In Medicine, first runner-up of the 2022 Albert Jungers Poetry Prize. His works have appeared/are forthcoming on Brittle Paper, The Healing Muse, PRISM International, BPPC Anthologies, and elsewhere