Sunday morning runway

If you don’t know much about theology
& don’t know much about fashion
a Lagos Sunday morning will school you:

There’s gele and agbada, buba and fila
it’s not about matching, it’s – coordination –
sometimes with the congregation
other times with your partner,
make sure the ushers
and other preying eyes know, this is mine,
don’t lay hands lest I dash your ear like Peter.

Sometimes the Pastor will coordinate his mike
with his tie and if he’s really bringing fire, his leather shoes
and if the Holyghost is to come, the handkerchief must be tight,
close to the breast, a subtle nod to the top
tucked beneath the three piece.

Oh! The choir on thanksgiving Sunday
is all you need to know about the ministry
the delivery of worship is woven with the fabric
even the drummer is suited up, perspiring with zeal.

No miniskirts, no cleavage, no bum bum
no satin in the Sanctuary
don’t drive the men to hell, abeg
the only seduction is for the Kingdom.

Sabbath in Lagos, is not a day of rest,
it’s commotion, it’s shoe shine on saturday night
ironing at first light, perfume,
& for the kids at boarding school,
it’s ghetus on your trousers, starched white shirts,
marching to church with the warden and not letting a grain of dust
touch your garments.

Sunday morning in Lagos is the only runway
that brings heaven to earth.


Home for Christmas

it’s “climate-change-is-real” weather
a toasty 15 degrees on the 25th
an ambitious “barbeque christmas” mum says in glee
as she pulls shades from the glovebox.

two hands on the wheel
she leans and smiles
“you know i prefer British weather to back home.
variety. i like variety.”

then she laughs
“you know, i can’t even tie my gele
the way i used to. it’s funny
how you forget these things”

i smile back, squinting ahead.
the smell of pepper soup drifting forward from the back seat

Home, whether sleet or heat,
Home is where the soul feeds.


Uncle Rotimi reminded me on his lebara connection
“Don’t marry those oyinbo girls over there oh,
this is your home, this is where you belong.”

The bus conductor in Nairobi mistaking me for a Kikuyu
demanded, “eh, are you a white man
why can’t you speak your mother’s tongue?”

Sometimes, like a true Yoruba tribesman
I play with my h’s like
‘ospital and hoffice.

I still dobale before my elders,
an ancestral reflex.

Though I understand, my tongue is not loosed to speak
that’s why aunty Tolu teases me with “omo London“.

Yet, roadside suya, gala, pure water, garri and groundnut,
NEPA, noise, catapult, marbles, malaria, dust,
dance, anointing oil, all-night vigil, morning pledge, super eagles,
condensed milk, gizzard, pepper soup, Robb, Dettol baths
and endless summers – these are the ingredients of my childhood.

My harmattan birthday now comes wrapped in winter.
You know, I didn’t even flinch last snowfall,
now, I use SPF 50 when I visit the motherland.

When I’m asked,
“So, which are you – British or Nigerian?”
I say, “Both”.