Child of the sea


My father knows me by names
that are not mine.
Tonight, I’m the fishwife.
It doesn’t really count
that I share this lineage with women of the streets
or that I hear echoes of my own voice rush through his blood like a whip
marking rivers across the back of my neck
or that his fingers are the fried fins of a salmon,
piercing when they meet
my tongue to deposit scales.
This is the hidden point on a running line
where two angles seem to meet
but his hand on my shoulder, is a dream I don’t want to escape with.
So, I wait for daybreak, more than barmen on the nightshift
wait for first signs of light.
More than the tigress waits for trespassers,
after demarcating her territory
with her urine.
Even more than the scarlet woman, for a favourite client
when the night is still young.
But far into this dark,
my father, again, calls me by another name:
you’re not my blood, you’re a child of the sea.
Invites me to take a sip of his screwdriver cocktail.
Here boy, something to smoothen your haunted feet:
two citrus slices,
angostura, tots of campari
till morning comes. Drink, river boy.
Still, I find no pleasure in sharing his drink.
Here’s a toast to how much of parallel lights
I and his advances have become;
never destined to meet. How much I,
over time, have nurtured the tornado in my mouth;
unforgiving. Unyielding.
His eyes: pebbles I yearn to pluck, his hands
on my neck, as I fall asleep
are stories; begging to be forgotten,
yet always retold.

Chisom Okafor