Staying Alive

we died in blankets soaked in fresh blood
decomposing in our bed rooms
we died in the center of the living room 
where one crippled bullet-ridden wall stayed put
in revolutionary defiance
against institutionalized violence
we died in green parks by waterfalls
in amber fields of wheat
we died in front of our children
vomiting screaming shaking shocked
white privilege walks on the softest of clouds
floating up like feathers
white privilege enters board rooms in a careless form with a killer smile
i died in the office my head flat on the desk
t’was axed from my neck
i died in the office every time
i had to codeswitch
talk laugh think white
i died in an office of 
stark white cubicles 
colleagues staring offering no condolence
at my decapitated body
shredding it apart layer by layer 
‘cause i wasn’t the kind of black they wanted 
had to get rid of me
these white people get anxious when i’m not laughing
nor serving
is corporate whiteness plastered on midtown steel skyscrapers
southern hatred sipping iced tea on screened in porches
chairs creaking in day breezes that go by  
stocks bonds funds hedged on generations 
upon generations of the distresses dislocations of african peoples 
Breonna Taylor’s killers got off free tonight
’cause it’s america
and somebody somewhere’s trying to gun me down in this land of war
riding my back
they scheme in their living rooms
become war rooms
scheme as i morning jog on my own pavement
they procure weapons of mass destruction
from plotters of mass destruction
alongside actors of genocide 
and they want my flesh to rot
in a pit
want my demise hanging from trees any kind of tree
those dixie whites
can conjure too
direct from hell
but the liberal whites they shoot in the back
hide the evidence in politricks
then vote for barack
nah don’t me a white liberal
give me grace to stay alive
to raise up my children so then
i can die

The Healer

He flares up in my soul 
like boils on fevered skin
Taunt, tight, tense 
A rotting stench within and
He invades everything
Every space
He taints everything
Every place
He leaves nothing unturned
He makes a shameful mess of me
The undone unsettled mess of me
spills out in gory bursts of agony
flares up in itching rashes 
unabashed, frightening hues 
that don't look like me
I'm bent over 
scratching a mess of inflammation poised to conceal me
his presence stings.
Streaks of thick 
of blue
He haunts, rages and stings
in me
I exorcise him with warm compressions 
with tea tree oil
white sage
white candles
burn through night vigils
I coax him out of me
the night vigils
praying low in a cool dark corner
I'm a healer at work
And I heal this hurt
Sifting roots, shifting spirits
I save my own soul 
He comes out of me 
squirming under the light
His eyes sealed in blood
a pool of pus he leaves behind
palo santo I burn behind
I sprinkle the ashes 
I speak in tongues 
I manifest 
I mount
my own steps to peace


If Africa is a body 
Then I am her lover 
tracing her 
ancient form
With the flat of my tongue 
Licking the arcs around 
Somalia's sharp horn
Across the stretches 
Of Mozambique to Botswana
Where her belly dips in vast wetness

If Africa is a body
Then the DRC
the RC
The Rwandan hills
are her breasts 
Heavy with milk
high as ten thousand peaks
Stationed above valleys packed 
with precious stones sparkling bellow freshwater 

If Africa is a body
Egypt preserves her bones in its tombs
Tanzania cradles her head in its craters
South Africa clips gold on her ears

The Khoi-San
Pour honey from the Kalahari 
into her mouth
In Madagascar she 
sucks the tangy fruit of  

Nigeria prays for her soul
To thrive in abundance
To overcome centuries of exploitation
To lift her head in triumph 
And to tell her stories
Through the voices of a mélange of
West African griots speaking as one

If Africa is a body
she finds rest for it on a 
golden stool in Ghana
Under the shade of coconut trees
Tucks hibiscus petals into her 
Senegalese braids coated with 
argan oil from Morocco

Her skin shines with 
Red palm oil from Cameroon 
Olive oil cold pressed in Tunisia
shea butter
Churned in Togo
By cousins of 
Dahomean women 
who fought to 
keep her hands free
from the chains of 

If Africa is a body
I see her spirit rise 
every morning from the 
Far East of Ethiopia 
Hovering light as dew above
Lalibela's holy memorials

She rises to the 
Clang of cowbells
Tam tam
kora strums
snake rattles
She bathes in Lake Victoria 
Every night 
With one leg perched 
Over Zimbabwe
The other in Zambia
She scrubs herself with 
soap blackened in Oyo Kingdom

If Africa is a body
It houses an 
intellect's mind
archiving the tales of 
of BCE, Anno domini,
pleistocene, eocene 
The science of civilizations
The spirituality of devotees

And I am the 
faithful lover of her soul
Her joy, pain  
mine to share
I cover her hands 
in wet kisses
I love the
depths of her
The surface
And the everywhere of her
This is not mind over matter
This is primordial 
As solid as eternal
Forever more with her
Love unconditional 
of the ages back and forth
I love her to the ground
Every coarse and finely
bit of 

The greed of humankind
dug scars into her 
across her body 
Like thorns
But nevermind the wounds
the blistered feet
calloused hands 
burned thighs
Twisted back

This body 
of unsung 
rises again
hosts ghosts 
lineages of time
in her womb
carries through beloved 
to full term grace

Hope Trails Along

hope trailing you fling me away to everlasting cascades in felicity
webbed fusions woven on pendulating spools tosses my presence into captivity dying sighing 
…a turbulent existence a pulverized aplomb 


trickles into nothing 
dust to dust

Risen in waves
Revived in splendor
In the land of the living jaunting on the trail until dusk settles into dust

I prance the earthen ground 
your footstool 
cuddled in winds swiping ‘round my form 
undeniably yours
bended grasses cushion my body my gaze wanders beyond stretching tree branches
and languid clouds discerning the source of my redemption from the source 

Daughter of Nature

I am the daughter of Mercy Nonyelum
And Emmanuel Ashinyeli
I am the daughter of browned forms
Of Theresa Nwakaego, Bridget, Godwin and Mmadinyeli
The daughter of dreams cobbled together in pillars that hold up the sky
I am the daughter of my mother’s visions
I am the daughter of Awkuzu’s red earthen paths
Linking compounds enlivened with playing children
Budding youth
Mysterious elders
And sacred trees that carry souls in glass jars dangling from thick branches
I am the daughter of Odekpe’s black soil
Odekpe’s fishermen
Who live earnestly devoted to the
Canoes that lift them
The crocodiles that save them
The river that feeds them
I am the daughter of farmers who bend over grasses 
With babies swaddled on their backs
Hands gripping curved blades
Hands that caress the womb of the world 
Hands that reach into the warm wetness of it
Then stroke, pet and yank out tubers of yams, cassavas, greens and things
I am the daughter of Ndi Ogbaru –
The people who dance Egwu Amala –
On the bank of the River Niger glowing under
Waves of moonlight
Waves that shimmer
Stomping their feet
Pumping their arms glistening in browns
For Mamy Wata
She peeks through her underwater temple
Watches them dance for her
Conceals her content
Ogbaru people dance for her
The Ngoddys, Afuberohs, Okwuosahs, Achikehs, Oduahs
And I am their daughter
The one they bore through fire, blood and blessing
They willed me to live,
Cursed anyone who dared hate me
Wrapped me in a bag tied it with prayers mumbled
Over white stones cock feathers
They shoved the bag under a nest of crooked roots
Under wild fruit
Far, far away from evil eyes
And under these roots I took a form
I grew
With my umbilical cord embraced in twigs
Nature raised me
Molded my mind
I grew to love with eyes that wonder
So I am the daughter who loves you until you’re out of breath
Upside down
In an Ogbaru shrine
I love you until
You die 
And get born again
Until nature beckons you
To be born again
I pack your bones walk with them
Smooth, toughened, broken things
My soles meet soil
My beads jiggle on my waist
My chin lifts
Locks bounce behind the shoulders
These arms piled high with your bones
Past evil eyes caves evil forests
I stop on the bank of the River Niger
Where dancers’ feet stamped the land
I inhale air doused in moonlight
Bring my hands together like this
Dig into the earth like this
Dig into the earth like this
Setting earth aside and I place your bones inside the womb
Give you back to nature to be born again because I will love you 
this time and again 

About the Author

Chika Oduah is a poet, writer, photographer, filmmaker and award-winning journalist. She is currently based in Dakar, Senegal and travels across Africa capturing life and current affairs. 

Twitter: @chikaoduah; Instagram: @chika_the_explorer

*Featured image by Szabolcs Molnar from Pixabay