identity crises as a variant of grief


my brother says there is a rumple on the skin of every african,

a beacon that attracts bad luck 

& other asininities that smell of karma’s breath.

so every morning after his ritual of chewing stalks of bitter leaf

he dips his hands into a pool of bleach, 

rubs them rigorously on the sinews of his flesh 

till his veins turn white

like ghosts diagnosed with anaemia.


my aunt is an orchestra of babel,

a chatterbox that defies time & space.

everyone in our town of past glories

uses her tongue to wipe away their worries.

most times, she sits amongst men who see god

in cigarettes and gin bottles,

reeling out words in extinct accents.

god only hears prayers in proper english, she says.


pa comes home fortnightly, shouting out fiery

anthems that burn our ears into smithereens. 

can’t sell my culture for thirty pieces, he would say.

what does it profit a man 

to lose his forbidden fruit to women 

who speak through their nose? tell me.

tonight, in the midst of his stories that touch 

& drag thoughts to the cell of penitence,

i see him marvel at the portrait 

of a british model on the cover of vogue.

hormones preach sermons on the pulpit of his member.


my sister is the sea 

tossed to & fro

by seafarers who wanted her hand in marriage.

she soon got fed up with their words of rum & deceit,

became tempestuous, drowning

the tenets of twelve religions.


here i am, in the arms of time,

thinking of caricatures of nothingness,

a family without an emblem.

how i wish mum were here instead of hiding in shadows,

watching hens dance on her grave.


Photo by Cecile Hournau on Unsplash.

Ajise Vincent
Ajise Vincent is an economist based in Lagos, Nigeria. His works have appeared in Jalada, Ake Review, Saraba, Bombay Review, and Birmingham Arts Journal, among others. He is a recipient of the Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize 2015 and Akuko Poetry Prize 2022. He loves coffee, blondes, and turtles.