Lesson

At times the transgression of my hands and iniquity of my mind

Berate me, shake me and scare me till to darkness I bind

And in shadows, sorrows find.

 

Those were yesterdays.

 

These days, when the wind whooshes through

The button holes in my shirt and embraces my chest

Like it kisses the bees and carries the seeds

And the sun pours light into pores and sinks life into skin

Trickling honey onto lips and anointing me like I’m prophet and king

At last I know to speak to my soul with kindness

               

The backseat

Dad takes up a lot of leg space behind the wheel

So I’m always behind mum’s seat,

I’m older, anywhere in the back

With the greatest room is without a doubt my birth right

 

The back seat doubled as sibling’s cage

Vying for room with stretched elbows

And overzealous hips

 

Often the front seats taught sermons of forthcoming discipline

No space for tantrums, we might be in the West

But this is a West African household

With West African rules for backchat from the back seat:

One hand on the wheel, a knock on the head with the other

 

Older, bolder and obnoxiously more knowledgeable

The back seat spoke political correctness and opinion as fact

Like the continuous disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people

And why Eskimos are Inuit and Red Indians, Indigenous Americans;

Backseat crusader.

 

Some journeys were full of sunny skies

Warm sighs whether on wintry nights or beneath summer lights

Rippling laughter from back to front and front to back

Branching at kebab shops or McDonald driveways,

Straining our necks to check the menu

Choosing the same thing anyway – chicken mayo,

Forensics can trace our trips by dips stained on the back seat

 

Throughout the year

The back seat takes some strain-

Sandwiching unwanted guests, sweaty cousins,

Fat aunties and noisy nephews

 

I’ve seen afternoons turn to evenings, static in the back seat,

Something all ministers’ kids will understand

“We’ll be back soon”, they repeat

The most consistent lie ever told

 

Great novels have been read in the back seat,

Even better dreams have been had dozing in the heat

Waking up to home sweet home or jarring potholes

 

Once, in the backseat of our green Hyundai

Lost in the poor lit streets of a northern village

The front seats are in stormy animation

 

The pitter patter of “I told you” and “shut-ups”

Thunders to a slap that sends the rain away

Bringing heavy clouds to mum’s eyes

Dad’s lightning hand shocks the back seat;

My sister shrinks in electrified silence

I shake and sob with fear and suspense

Like children counting between bolts and claps

The back seat never seemed so far away

 

I grew up in the backseat you know,

Watching hairs grow grey in the front seat

Learning that dads get scared too

And mums shed more tears than you do