No. Not the business of genitals and cloud-high passionate encounters this time,
not the matter of rooms and inns—private, public, or in-betweens—this time,
nor affectionate chances between lovers bound by desire before hate crested.
This is an unpopular count, an altered style of numbering, where young males
speedup their retirement from life in their prime by no act of their own volition.
This is a story of citizens made less citizens by another group with divergent hue.
It is a story of trade, of cruel barter, of hate; it is a story of exclusion, of caste, of
denial; where the vehicle for conveying man to God is through the hell of lynching,
quartering, and lead. It is the story of the land of the free, of America. From slavery
to Jim Crow; from Emmett Till to Treyvon Martin. It is a story of those men donning
police badges whose fathers burned crosses. A story of rejoicing at expecting, revelry
at baby showers, but mothers sliding into early mourning as soon as their sons are born.
It was 1976, Lagos, my father, fresh from good old London
where he camped after graduating at Kent. The photograph:
he in his wedding lace attire—buba, sokoto, and implausibly
high-soled shoes. His bride too, handsome in iro, buba, ati gele.
Both shimmering in the glory of youth, smiles of mirth reaching
their ears. From his image it is not hard to see where my hairline
takes its boundary, my smile, even my cheekbones, my frame.
It was night-time, the finale of the ceremony, as they knelt, elders
performed rites of the merger, piling blessings upon blessings unto
the business with prayers destined to bind the pair a lifetime. This is
also my first glimpse of my great grandmother in full figure: shrivelled
in her aso-ebi, eyes behind dark spectacles—suffice it to say that this,
perhaps, was when the soup of her sight began to stew sour. But
what are photographs save perfect captures constrained to moments?
Because from the tuneful song of affection in their eyes, their hearts
bursting with merry, without embroidery it rings sharp that they willed
the ritual short, and the night long, that they may leave to attend to
a more perfect union. Alas, finger few years into the bind was all the
lasting they could reach, but the photograph, perfect in the instant, was
blind to the tell; more blinding even, that over a decade after the split, my
father would meet my mother who’d birth a son to scribble it all in verse.
Kelvin Kellman: "I have had works featured or forthcoming in The Stockholm Review, Cabildo Quarterly, Green Briar Review, The Blue Mountain Review, and elsewhere."