The Girl Comes Back With Fire In Her Chest || Three Poems By TITILOPE SONUGA

We at Kawe decided to share these powerful poems by Titilope Sonuga. The three poems here are dedicated to the Chibok Girls. In the poems she explores what these girls may have endured and other ways they have had to vanish in order to survive. The poems here are from her forthcoming collection – THIS IS HOW WE DISAPPEAR.



“No matter who my daughter is when she comes back,

she is my daughter and I want her back home.”

dis·ap·pear /ˌdis ˈpir / verb / the men, thick as baobab, become

a forest, drag us in by the wild of our hair.

the men scratch

our names from our throats

betray our bodies

bones bend back


we become a whisper

hands gather a scream

back into her mouth


the only way we know how

palms clasped and reaching

elbow deep into a soft night
beg god between her legs

birth and bury

what we must to stay alive
silent stream

silk fish swirl

a red amen around our ankles

beneath the moon that sees us all

our mother prays into the black

bloom between her legs

reaches deep to birth us back

red scream in her throat

names we no longer answer to
we scatter from her hands

silk fish swirl

in a wild stream

Image Source : The Social Rush


In the dream

I close my eyes and count backward from 276

the girls crawl feet first from their hiding places

behind the curtains where their feet stick out

under the bed untangling from a mess of limbs
A slit in the silence bursts open

and their voices fall out

calling each other’s names

unlearning memory

bones melting back to whole
The ones who do not make it into hiding

shake their bodies loose from where they stand

suspended in time
They brush past me as they go

peeling back the skin of a thousand days

calling up the blood to dance beneath

their former faces still soft enough

for their mothers to recognize

Image Source : Thisday Live


By what name do we call the girl

when she comes back?
Is it cruel now to call her Joy,

to call her Precious,

to call her Patience?
Do we turn her old clothes to rags

to wash her with or break

the bed where her feet now dangle over

and burn it to ash?
Do we sing a praise song or dirge

when the girl comes back

with her mouth sewn her eyes sunken shut and

her eyes sunken in?
Do we welcome her home

when there is none

and forget how savage

the privilege of weeping

before the one whose tears have dried up?
When the girl comes back

whose arms does she run into?
Who will call her daughter

and call her daughter daughter too?
Who will offer up their back for her to climb on?
Whose milk has not yet curdled?

Who will nurse this broken woman back to girl

and back to whole again?

her mouth pools with blood from her razor tongue

in a corner with her hands held high she becomes a wall

savors the anger like fruit she stole when no one was looking

tells her sins to God, no one is listening
in a corner with her hands held high she becomes a wall

becomes a fire no one can touch

tells her sings to God, no one is listening

she is alone here
becomes a fire no one can touch

savors the anger like fruit she stole when no one was looking

she is alone here

her mouth pools with blood from her razor tongue

no one could say which one of them

held the baby or the bomb
each cradled a heavy head

held its body across her chest

beneath a billowing cloth
both walked with the grace

only mothering teaches

moving without disturbing

a sleeping thing
when we were putting the bodies back together

trying to bury what we could not name

there was no one left, not even a child

to tell us which mother they heard ticking

or clucking before they knelt
We could not bend the bones back from broken

to know whose forehead touched the ground last

or gather the breath back into their mouths

even into a mumble to say

whose prayer was answered first

or whose daughter went home

Titilope Sonuga is an award winning poet, writer and performer who has graced stages across Nigeria and internationally. She was the winner of the 2011 Canadian Authors’ Association Emerging Writer Award for her first collection of poems, Down To Earth. Her spoken word album Mother Tongue was released in 2013 followed by a second collection of poetry, Abscess, in 2014. She is currently the ambassador for Intel’s She Will Connect Program across Nigeria. Titilope was the first poet to appear at a Nigerian presidential inauguration ceremony, performing at the May 2015 inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari. She adds acting to her accomplishments playing “Eki” in the NdaniTV hit television series Gidi Up, which airs across Africa. Her forthcoming collection is titled This is How We Disappear.

These poems were first published in BRITTLE PAPER

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