Written by | Poetry


My Dad sends me videos
on Whatsapp
the leader of the liberal party in Benin
addresses our people on
a recording from France
“The new president
tried to kill me.
Citoyens du Benin, c’est un affront!”

In my Chicago apartment
I pray, Lord, please let there be peace;
Benin hasn’t known war
like Mali, Somalia, Sudan;
even our neighbors Ivory Coast.

I remember Ephrem, my Ivorian classmate
telling me, “oui, pendant la guerre,
soldiers invaded la Maison de mon oncle
and raped my cousin.
She hasn’t been the same ever since.”
My mother and little sister
are still at home.
I shake the thoughts away. No.

Benin would never start
a revolution, no matter how
bad it got.
Back in 2008 when Yayi Boni
was elected and
tweaked the elections for 2013,
the most we did
was scream on the streets before
his armed guards threw tear gas
in our face.
After 2 days, our tears
turned to laughter.
We joked,
nous les Beninois,
nous sommes trop peureux!
Our cowardice was
so ridiculous
it tickled our stomachs
when we could no longer
hold down the nausea.
So, we laughed and
went back to work.

We are not given to violence.
We war in peace.
Our mothers rise in the
morning with their girls
and spread their stalls in our Dantokpa market
–black eyed beans, red and green chile pepper
dried fish, roasted peanuts, roasted corn
Vlisco Wax fabric
gari, fresh tomatoes, apples, skinned oranges, dead fish—
in turmoil, our mothers
meet the sun with smiles
like a lost baby they
are so happy to find again.

When our deceased president Kerekou
caused a coup d’etat
and the country split in half,
my grandma was still sowing clothes for
the villagers to wear.
And when the French mercenaries
landed in front of the Presidential office
and sprayed it with their machine guns,
my grandmother listened on the radio, needle in hand.

Thank God those @#&(*@ failed.

We run from trouble
but France hasn’t stopped
coming after us.
First it was the slaves they took
from Ouidah who didn’t
cross the river after dark
but in broad daylight
in front of smirking merchants.
Then their armies invaded
Abomey and dethroned our
King Behanzin. (They say even when he died, his finger would not
hold the pen to sign the French deeds claiming he gave Benin away
#voodoo #Africanresistance)
But today, our new president Patrice Talon
may well be a willing puppet in their hands.

But we are a people of peace.
We trade our own
to make the guns go away;
a people of treason
who trade our own
to fill our pockets
with mirrors
which we inevitably break
when we take a good look
at ourselves.
Yes sometimes, “it really be your own people.”
And we have History to thank, for repeating itself.

Last modified: April 16, 2021

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