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Oteeyho Iro is from the Northern part of Nigeria. She sees poetry as a passage to healing with ears that never get tired of listening to our voices. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Visual Verse, Journal of Expressive writing and Jalada Africa.


welcome to arewa the land of the farmers who nurture the earth's fertility a voyage to the season of shower— where my favorite delicacy dwells let me give you a taste of holy tubani made from the child of earth—corn: freshly scrab & blend into paste—wrap into its own cloak & steam serve with oil and pepper

sit cross-legged, a lotus flower—how my grandmother taught me she said:

that's how you show respect to the ones who planted the seeds and birthed the earth with corns use your naked finger and feel your mouth explode with a magic-hot romance of flavours spicy-pepper, sweet-corn, salty-salt & nutty-oil

warning: if you ain't ready do not join me on this voyage


only carry the essential when travelling

an apothegm mama told me over and over again

a mantra

but you see I have this habit of overpacking

& there is a difference between been owned &

been the owner

my habit got a tether on my neck

made me overpack even when I did not want to

even when my knee buckled

even when my spine crooked a serpentine road

my shoulder bent to the left

jelly from the weight—luggage overflowing a mountain,

stained rug, burnt pot, broken pen and trash bin of yesteryears

my mama told me to only carry the essentials when travelling

over & over

I still can't sort my luggage in this journey

but I am learning to let go—to stop hoarding the things

that broke me

& make allowances for forgiveness

that burnt pot, stained rug one at a time

one at a time


this body is a mantra

a mouth full of prayers—

oh glory be to you

who made the earth steady

underneath my soggy legs

let me fly with the birds

adjust my cornea in the dark

so that I may discern

between my right and left

let hope flow like seedlings from the air

in my lungs—imbibe the qualities of a seed

that thrives even when buried underneath the dirt

take away the pain soften grief with time

quench my thirst

feed my hungry heart

unto myself let me be full


today is the day I forfeit my inheritance

from women

who learned patience as a tongueless

eyeless hollow thing

who swallowed their tongues whole

carrying silence like a badge

scars like accolades

an inheritance passing from generation

to generation to generation

I forfeit

refuse to pay the tax with quiet mouth—

my body an avalanche of suck it all

I fortfeit

let this poem be a quitclaim a scissors

to cut every girl free


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