Omololá Ijeoma Ògúnyemí is a medical informatics researcher based in Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up in Nigeria, she was captivated by the works of Nwapa, Emecheta, Ba, Ekwensi, Austen, Ulasi, El Sadaawi, Thorpe and other authors of the then ubiquitous Pacesetters series targetted at young Nigerians. She draws her inspiration from the experiences of Nigerians and other Africans in the diaspora, and has run a mailing list for Nigerian and African women's issues since 1994. Her work has appeared in Odidere Orunmila Gazette and the South Boston Literary Gazette.

Poems by Omololá Ijeoma Ògúnyemí


Omololá Ijeoma ÒgúnyemíIt wasn't the lure of repealed taxes
that drew her to the movement
it was the sight of hundreds of women
wielding cooking implements
subversion of the domestic and familiar
into instruments of war,
it was the power she felt
coursing through her body
as she joined the marches, chanting
the look of respect in her husband's eyes
when she returned home each night.
Spurred on by the kicks from within her swollen belly
this humble trader, weaver of cloth
joined the assembly of women
surrounding the district officer's house
waiting for their demands to be met
Day after day, the African sun blazed hot
frying scalp exposed between cornrows
a little agony ignored for the cause
The day came when the man had had enough
the women intercepted on their way to his house
by a platoon of men who walked tall
just like the women's fathers
with skin that glowed
just like their brothers'
but empty eyes, devoid of allegiance
she had never moved so fast in her life
but could not outpace the source of the whine
gritted her teeth at the moment of the sting
but kept on running
and when the burning continued
she put her hand to her left shoulder
and laughed at the red, sticky liquid
She had never felt so free
But the baby wouldn't wait
She felt the hands supporting her
And then nothing at all
The sound of the angry wail
Drew another laugh from her
She uttered her first words to her daughter
"You were born to fight"
And on that morning in 1929
The women smiled the wide smiles
Of those who know
That they will win in the end


the first drops hit like bullets
on the car's dusty roof
the sound reminiscent
of advancing bàtá drums

we pull over to the side
and marvel at the sight
long grey fingers
chasing an off-white sun
through the in-between spaces
the sky a tranquil blue

an impulsive teenage rainbow
decides to join the fun
sassy and flirtatious
encircling the sun
the drumming stops abruptly
grey fingers tired out

we gulp great breathfuls
of ambrosial air
the all-pervasive earth-scent
inducing sensory overload
visions of paradise
at the edge of the road

daughter earth smiles
ablutions finally done
now ready to reach up
and embrace the glowing sun

Memories of Ibadan

warming sun rays on malaria-chilled skin
the sweet taste of water once the illness runs its course
huge almond fruit tree
guarded by ferocious soldier ants
mango trees bursting with fruit
little stick-throwing thieves
gathering juicy loot
squeezing through hedges
comparing homeowner encounters
once the running is done
sweet sticky yellow juice running down bony arms
climbing up a coconut tree
a view of the entire world before me
okay just sankore street
little boys playing futbol
with a small tin can
blades of grass tickling their bare feet
little girls playing ten-ten
with total concentration
feet a blur of frenzied motion
making àgbalúmòó chewing gum
wondering why i can't blow bubbles
face deforms into an ugly grimace
as sour yeye sets teeth on edge
sucking sweet nectar
from an ixora's red flowers
watching others do the same
a collection of four-foot brown bees
mile-long traffic jams
around dugbe market
olómi tútù rèé o
hawkers darting from car to car
selling ice-water, oranges, fanta, coca-cola
waiting for you to down your fanta
'cause they need the bottle back
disbelief when cocoa house caught fire
i heard the governor cried
red dust from harmattan winds
settling over everything
just as we finish the saturday cleaning
a child's work is never done
following the world cup pre-qualifiers
with the tv turned off
'cause NEPA struck again
the joyous roar of an entire city
marking each of our goals
the collective groans of a million souls
following each of their goals
obsidian nights
lulled to sleep by an orchestra of crickets
conducted by toads
with occasional support from melancholy dogs
the sounds of the morning hawkers
ushering in a new day
ílè ti mó
the ground is mó
rise, shine, do it again
with radio o-y-o two

Presumed Guilty: Passport Green

I love my Green Passport
but not the special treatment conferred.
In Heathrow, hands searching,
opening, tossing, strewing.
Yellow hair and Aqua eyes
oozing Green-scorn.
To reclaim tattered dignity,
unheeded cries to embassy.

I love my Green Passport
but not the special treatment conferred.
In JFK, stripped naked,
by gloved hands violated,
in this never-ending search for white gold.
Disappointment on the faces -
We'll get you yet.
Don't you fret.

Osún, Óyá, Yémójá
I cry
Sàngó, Ògún, Ifá
tell me why
I love my Green Passport
through anguish, through pain.
I love my Green Passport
surely, not in vain.


Your mother held your still-born frame
Four times
Four times you went away
But when she rocked you in her arms
the fifth time
She thought you were here to stay

Sometimes I see you in the mirror
from the sides of my eyes
but how could that be you unchanged
two decades have gone by

Do you ever pause to ponder
life's strange twists and turns
You survived war's fire
It was peace that pushed you under

Are you curious as I am
about how it could have been
Given another turn at the wheel
This time
would you strap yourself in?

Com (E) Patriot

(May this be the last dictator)

Bow, the patriot-king alights
Khaki-green proclaims his might
His convoy screeches through the night
No end, no end, no end in sight

And we all know might is right
Yes we all know might is right

Swollen, turgid, kwashiorkor bellied
Petrolene babies born inhaling
Eau de petro-dollar, watch them straining
For a glimpse of the green that will never be seen

Except by the patriot king
All hail the patriot-king!

The crated man, he sold their birthright
Spat at fate, returned from flight
Wooden confines a distant dream
In a land where justice is green

For we all know might is right
Truth be damned for might is right

The mad woman's child strains to suckle
As she belly-laughs, sniggers and chuckles
For there is no funnier sight
Than this place where might is right

Dispatch unpatriotic elements with zeal!
Then bow and hail the patriot-king!

The dribbler zig-zags and relaxes
Re-emerges to engage the masses
His astonishing skills bedazzle
Leaving enemies frustrated, frazzled

In a place where might is right
Truth be damned for might is right

Bow, the patriot-king alights
His white agbada gleaming bright
Banishing all ugly sights
In a place where might is right

But watch the petro-babies grow
Watch their power begin to show

Informal Logic

She was told that hard work was the only requirement
For achieving the American Dream
She's worked days looking after cranky old folks
Whose families no longer care
And nights as a security guard
For four long years
She's perfected the art
Of sleeping while standing
On buses and trolleys and trains
As she heads from shift to shift
Her limbs racked with pain
By deductive reasoning
She knows she is living
The American Dream
Someone just forgot to explain to her
That the dream would involve
Wiping up elder shit
So each hour she prays
For that wonderful day
On which she gets to wake up

Her husband left
Each time she got pregnant
And was only there off and on
After the children were born
Her boyfriend wrote her
A Dear Jane letter
Said I loved you dearly
But your kids I could not
By inductive reasoning
About lovers and children
She arrives at a strange conclusion
Straps the little ones in
And aims the car at the lake
She gets out onto the ramp
Releases the hand brake
Gets hysterical as she runs
But never once looks back
She blames the crime
On a black carjacker
Tapping into that reservoir
Of subconscious fear
That has served others like her well
For over four hundred years
But this time it goes awry
And for a little while
It seems the times
Really are changing

The officers were taught to shoot dead
Any suspect reaching for a weapon
The man was shot dead by the officers
By abductive reasoning some may conclude
That the man was reaching for a weapon
No one thought to explain to him
Before he came to these shores
What a deadly weapon a wallet could be
In his hands


(dedicated to Kamau Brathwaite)

They say hurricanes begin in Africa
Have you ever heard the sigh of bones
Lining the ocean floor?
Listen carefully
And you'll come to know
That soft green sound
Like elephant grass whispering
Day after day those whispers
Warp minds in the East
Keep iron-fisted rulers
Deaf to their people's pleas
And each year
Those whispers become a deafening roar
Pent up fury of souls undead
Rejecting the whip
Breaking the chains
Seeking justice once more
Their anger pushes West
Their anger pushes West
And when they are done
They return East
To whisper some more

They say hurricanes begin in Africa

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