I write at a crossroads of a life that has known pain, felt anger, cherished joy, and carried the idea of sustaining anything as urgent. I write too from a place of commitment, a mind that has known what it means to transform and be transformed, all while identifying and defining what life means to me. I have never taken the path others take. I have never done things only to regret them later. I have lived as though life could end tomorrow. I have dreamed as if dreaming was air, living, lying awake, on a bed of green grass as soft blue skies and clouds glide by. I have done these things and still I choose to write. These days, writing is all I know. So I write for connections between and among women, the most feared, the least understood, those tender, sharp and unafraid with eyes startling and ready to transform. Truly I write for the most transformative being that ever existed. I write so she lives, whether as a woman by herself, a sister, a friend or a mother. Today I write to myself and all the women we celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day

Four times, have I known pain. Child birth would bring pain so unbearable that you scream from the deepest depths of your soul. Four times have I screamed. To hold lives so complex, with smiles all for me. The piercing cries of restless children that test all you know. Especially at night, in middle of a deep sleep that forces you to stroll aimlessly for their needs. I always smile when today comes along. Not for the love I see in my girl and my boys, my better me, but for the journey we get to take. Nothing sets me so high than a reminder of all we have been through. The journey we still take through tears and dreary darkness. Those to Andy’s frozen custard for pleasure in a cup and spoon. These things, this rush of beauty and pain are the heart of motherhood for me. We knew there would be pain. The beginning was full of it. We knew pain will continue. Today still has some, lurking to uncover unknown and hidden spaces. We have tried to be strong. Tried to be our best selves so they too stand and be strong on their own. We have laughed and we have cried. We have laid down in mourning for an angel, and a bird we named Sky. They know good things never last. Like blue birds named Sky. They know too that we are in this moment together. A unique group we are. With birds and lilly magnolias. Grass so green, skies so blue that all we can do is lie down and let life be. We are living together for this moment. The skies paint an everlasting blue color. We look at each other, hoping this moment lasts forever.

Rain falls from the skies to the earth. Falls down to rivers and lakes, to flowers and trees all from skies open and free. Today I am free. I stand, not afraid to be me. To see the rain that have fallen for the past 8 years, where nothing seemed to stop all in my soul. To feel like flowers do. Tulips and daffodils, Japanese Cherry and lily magnolias. Rain with soul fall over all these like water over rivers not troubled, not alone. The directions I have taken to get here. Nights full of sleeping less, and yet still full of rest. The children I had birthed through this. The love and support of a fearless crocodile of the jungle will never do, when all you know is rain. My mind wants to speak. Joy wants to flow. A little girl dreamed and lived out her wildest dreams just as she dreamed it would be. I am close to becoming my dream. Close to swinging through to the other side where dreams become reality, yet mindful that we never stop dreaming. The falling rain, gentle streams, crocodiles and flowers are all the strength, I need to begin again like when colors of a rainbow meet. To see I own even my silence, with all the blessings, with eyes still on the prize, is the rain I need to keep falling endlessly.

Art from my daughter.

My day seemed random at first. International festival. Second grade kids. Talk about being born and raised in Nigeria. Simple. Until it began. There were all sorts of questions from minds curious about places far from home. I took it all in. Mesmerized faces eager to sail from this place to one I call home. We talked about the people, the places and things they will see. We shared 6 fun facts, like did you know the green in the flag stands for natural wealth and the white for peace and unity, something they all nodded we need right now. Especially the peace, one of them noted. I smiled. We need to begin with children.

Their walls were full of letters for the week. Pictures full of reasons for how to be second graders and more. I escaped through their eyes for a moment. Moved as we sailed from this place to another. I saw their love for my home. Smiled as they imagined how we could have so many people and so many languages when all they knew was one.

I imagine this must be what they say when minds and hearts come together as one. Questions of why you are you come to mind. Love for you rush through eyes eager to meet you just as you are. Their eyes tell stories of acceptance. Minds shares words of gratitude for times spent together, learning, knowing, meeting, sailing together from this place to one I call home.

I never thought our meeting would be so important. My narrow understanding of second grade, of minds eager to see, and know people, things and places far always. I now see for myself why these eyes and minds, so breathtaking, so authentic, so open, and unfettered, these minds of second grade boys and girls, must be celebrated always. They have buried their eyes into my soul. A treasure of happiness, resides deeply now. I never thought they would leave such an impression, but this maybe the start of something revolutionary, for this woman, fearless and free.

I see that second graders are rare beings. I see they love the world as it is, beyond themselves for themselves. I see they endlessly begin, where the words you speak end. Everything about them like the world is big enough for you and I. I see too that we should all escape from our world to theirs often. Memories of our day now sink into my soul that I just may focus more, on the stories, the places, the people, all the possible range of things that would keep this going on forever. Thank you to these second graders and all the kids I met today for being so open, so unfettered, as our minds sailed together from this to that. Diversity and inclusion need not begin only with grownups. Not when children hold the key.

Someone shared this on my twitter feed today. A letter from Kurt Vonnegut, about advice with life. To him, ‘practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.’

I am in the process of becoming.

In the process too of making my soul grow.

I keep practicing poetry writing.

Keep telling stories too.

Not for any fame or fortune, but to live in the moment.

As all the words within me linger on till eternity.

Kurt Vonnegut also noted that we should practice a six-line poetry about anything but rhymed. The sentences above are my attempt at writing six lines. I hope you find your way of becoming

The letter below.

It’s hard to imagine what I’ll do if I ever see my son on the cross. See him nailed for doing nothing. Watch him to carry a cross for others people’s sins. Watch him choose death in the cross so they live. The sheer strength of Mary is all I keep thinking about on days I like strength with my own. Days I want to lock myself up and pretend that I am alone. Then I remember Mary. Remember her grace. Remember her solitude. Remember that she did so much more than I could ever imagine as a mother.

Whether we like it or not, Mary, like words are all we need. They are great when weak. Stand through the times like night. Invisible but belong to those open in all directions to wilderness or distant landscapes. These words I write remind me of the grace I see from shadows that fall like on days when skies are blues, trees bristle with the wind as birds sing their songs, like on the first of May. We came together to give thanks, came one by one to offer roses to Mary on this first day of May. She makes us know that we can live freely because her son carried all that was against us, straight up to the cross. I am living just as free because she loves me.

Happy first of May also know as the first of Mary, the Mother of Jesus month.
Happy Mary Month.

There’ll be red sand. Red stoneless sand will line all the roads you see. But still, keep walking. The distant paths will blend to red and orange and red again. You’ll drop to your knees to feel their reddish nature. The roads ahead will lay bare, but for footsteps. Hurried steps. Hushful legs. Bristling through unaware of their walk through roads of red and oranges. You’ll see women and children walking. Some with babies carried at their back, walking. Some with things on their heads, like water or oranges shaped like pyramids, walking. Some, walking and waiting for their turns on orange and black Keke’s or motorbikes. Reds and oranges blend with the sole of their feet, moving freely with all the forces within. Everyone you see will be going somewhere. Hurried and unhurried steps, will be moving somewhere. Legs will do all the walking. Mouths will do all the greeting. But eyes, will speak only what eyes see.

Image from The Dream Keeper and other poems by Langston Hughes with illustration by Brian Pinkey.

Sometimes we don’t need experts. Not when we know the truth of our lives for ourselves. Sometimes all we need are spaces and places that allow us to name and describe our truths for ourselves, as we know it too. Sometimes, all we want is to listen more closely to ourselves, freely tell and share all our fears, compare all our wounds, not for your pity, but to see if through my words as shared to you, I can find healing for myself through you. It’s only in sharing, that we see ourselves more clearly. Sometimes all we want are eyes that see us clearly and ears that hear us fairly and minds that open up to us more dearly. Sometimes, I want to be next to those who allow me to see beyond all my eyes can see of that which is within me. I am afraid of what words will do if only I have the time to share it but sometimes all we want are the times, all of it for revealing our deepest fears, crying as we release all that we bury deeply, knowing that this poem we weave together with the words sometimes can only begin to manifest as the sum of our lives because we used the power of some times to change what is, know what has been, and imagine together the possibilities of what might be. Keep some times.

All of this was inspired by the great Adrienne Rich. Discovering her is doing something else to my mind and words. It is so scary but I am in awe and grateful.

The images you have of me. Mother, researcher, doing work in far away places. All of them are true. But those that are invisible. Everything hidden, under, and in between the lines like Toni Morrison’s invisible ink, are the bones that keep me tall and erect. One day, I will leave you hoping to see just how the story unfolds. What scenery passes through my window daily or whether i truly kiss the night air. Only that it would just be the beginning of the day in which all that I am to become, everything buried deeply within me, oozes forth like an ache.

I am possible, today, tomorrow, and forever, because I know my dreams, and my dreams go on dreaming, unbroken, unfettered, unafraid. They look to rivers and mountains, parks and creeks for inspiration that some call ambitious. Then they see struggles, all sorts of strife and pain lurking by the doorway, asking if we would like to come in. We do. Falling deeply into depths we pray will not leave us powerless. Not when we know what lies within us, all that cries out to arise from these depths we find ourselves in. We do, reaching for the skies above, hoping this wasn’t a dream. Dreams are always wasted if you don’t dream again. So we do, dreaming still that what lies hidden, everything under and in between the lines, remain unbroken, unfettered, unafraid, now that we touch all that aches within us.

My presentation today went well. We need more dreamers in global health.

The night air this Monday night stirs up new feelings within me. Call it nervousness, uncertain feelings, wishing to hide underneath a blanket and wait for Wednesday night to come, when this restless hunger will fade into the night like a rapture. In search of synergy, I move with my baby, who darts in and out my room. Jump around as he jumps too. Perhaps this movement with him is what I needed most. Perhaps being together is all I need. May this movement that shows up everyday. Whether from a baby or the night air, carry you through like a talking drum, from this to that, along the road only love knows.

Being rooted in all I do is free. I know my roots. I know my struggles too. I have lived through their lessons. Freedom takes a long time. With despair and fear, and a sprinkling of failure buried deep within. I have seen darkness of what it means to work. Roots buried deep only know dark. They know too that light takes time. I am beginning to know light. Both have taken a long time that I know first hand when the rain began to fall on me. I know too that you do not talk to a horse and wait for it’s reply. Whether it’s falling rain or neighing horses, I can testify that words are not enough to describe work. Neither are sentiments on papers. Only stories will do. Only the stories, with inward testimonies, of all the ways you reconciled shattered dreams with hopeful visions will do. Now that my roots pierce deeply into the soil, I look forward to shaming the devil as I speak my truth.

Image from Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye personifies how I feel these day. I know my roots.