Posted: July 15, 2014 in Articles
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by Dike Chukwumerije

I will not tell you his name. But I woke up in the middle of the night and found him in the kitchen. All the cupboards were open. They had been empty before we went to bed, still empty. But he’d found an onion and was standing in a corner eating it quietly, tears – the ones peeling an onion induces – running down his face.

My brother, I do not have the heart to romanticize poverty, because hunger is distracting. You can spend a whole morning thinking about it – when to leave the house, how slowly or quickly to walk so you can arrive at your friend’s house just when the house-help is taking the rice off the fire, how to keep your face and answer, how to say it nonchalantly – as if genuinely surprised, as if accepting only out of politeness – ‘Okay. Yes. I will eat.’

True. How do you tell your children there is no food in the house? I know a man who did it by pouring water into Ijebu garri as if it was a chocolate fountain emptying into a bowl of jelly beans, stirring it like he was a chef standing over a bubbling pot, garnishing it with fistfuls of groundnut – the unpeeled variety, that one that leaves its skin floating on the surface – sprinkling them like a master baker finishing off a vanilla cheese cake. Then he sat on the dining table with his wife and they took turns taking spoons. It was dusk, that time of the day between the sun setting and electric lights coming on, when the insides of our homes are dim, and the insides of our hearts are warm.

I tell you, there is a difference between not having everything you want, everything you need even, and being poor. And he would laugh – this man that taught me this – on the day he came back with full pockets, he would laugh and say, ‘Get in.’ And we would drive to the market for the things we couldn’t have every day – frozen chicken parts, sliced bread, butter, a tin of milo. Can you imagine it? It made me smile, overhearing my first child the other day saying to her mother, ‘I know you’re cooking beans. I can smell it. I am telling you now, I do not like it. I will not eat it!’ Because – I remember – beans was so cheap, sometimes, I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Yes. But what did it matter, not having fried rice and chicken instead, when the lesson was always – ‘do not let these things define you’? Ah. Don’t get me wrong at all. I am no longer a child. Now I know. It is torment, to approach your own home with even the remote possibility that you are not bringing back enough to give them everything they want, the children waiting at the window. Now I know. There is nothing romantic about it all – soaking garri for dinner, snacking on onions at midnight, dressing up a child, your child, in hand-me-downs.

But that burden is ours now to bear, like once it was bourn for us, by those who wore brave faces, and sang songs around kerosene lamps to infuse NEPA-less nights with incandescent memories, just so that lack would always be something we remembered, yes, but not something we carried like poison within us. I tell you, my brother, it is too late in the day to tell me that Love cannot function without a loaded ATM card. If, in spite of everything I do to avoid it, those sorts of days come again tomorrow, I too will wake up in the middle of the night and worry. But in the morning, my children will not see my pain.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. What a lovely piece. 10 likes!!

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    Mr Dike always has a way of making pains and suffering appear beautiful. He is a poetic narrator that reminds us of things which we appear to overlook. This article is beautifully written,

  3. Sheyzznote says:

    In the morning, my children will not see the pain too (amen). Same reason am working so hard to make them see a better ‘morrow when they finally arrive: my children.

    I love this article, it explain an aspect of poverty that most of us know, most parent do try their best and wish they could do more for their children, just that the sun does not always rise upon their roof.

    May we never know poverty, not even to the next generation. Good work!

  4. Moses opara says:

    Dike, is too gbasky. He writes with power and grace. His works are wow.

  5. Wonderful piece… Beautifully constructed… Points well taken.

  6. dave says:

    ah! my friend Dike, I just couldnt resist the irrepressible urge and beckoning your pen commands. i saw poverty once again thru the lens of a poetic erudite, during the cruise ( while reading ) I felt it, snaking up my being and … I only came back to conciouness a moment after the last word. thank you for the ride! for seeing things

  7. Chimezie says:

    This is a great performance. I love Dike’s essays. They have this universal human transcendence.

  8. Anene Francis says:

    I can’t but join in in pouring accolades for a beautiful write up such as this. And it truely merits them and more. Good work… A call to tighten one’s belt to secure a comfortable life for self and loved ones. I’ll add: What ever be the condition, hustle in the right side of the law. God bless our efforts.

  9. chime221 says:

    Great write-up!
    Here’s my best part: “…like once it was bourn for us, by those who wore BRAVE FACES (emphasis mine), and sang songs around kerosene lamps to infuse NEPA-less nights with incandescent memories, just so that lack would always be something we remembered, yes, but not something we carried like poison within us”.
    It takes an elder to realize this. I remember that as a child, I never cared what length my single mother went to put food on the table of six of us whom our father left and died.
    I like this. Chukwumerije conveyed it in such a way I can relate with personally.
    Thanks bro for making me appreciate my mother the more.

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