Babatunde Babafemi: “Ritual for my father (Jenipher’s speech)”
Nigerian Voices Today
Ritual for my father (Jenipher’s speech)
One morning I received a letter sent
from my mother through my brother
to my fiancée who read to me.
I grasp for my breath in the morning tea
and a cluster of this remains a flip flop inside my memory.
I don’t read or talk much
except when my fiancée says
I love you.
Repeatedly i hear her voice in my head.
Honestly I don’t want you to.
I have a disease.
My father said it is a paradox.
Few years ago he died of chicken pox.
My mother wrote her griefs inside a single note:
Dear son your father died in his sleep.
I wonder too
why my fiancée started this conversation with I love you.
We cherished love
We never had a family portrait except the time I left my village for the city.
just the memory of my family lining up at the motor park to wish me farewell.
Now this letter begins with another bye bye—
My father had passed on,
few nights ago.
Earlier that morning a seven year old boy passed by
my window singing Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears In Heaven’
as if he knew there’s a body inside me begging for peace
Of course part of me feigns to his creepy voice—such a baritone voice. too young to be my father’s.
So I pressed my face against the glass and saw him wearing oversized shoes—my shoes.
So I chased after him before he disappeared into the morning dew.
That morning my fiancee read a letter about the passing of my father
Then a boy whispered a warning into my body through my window.
My brother had passed on this letter because there’s a ritual:
a boy will go inside a forest to pluck
out his eyes and place it on a calabash set
at the deceased’s headstone so it will bring light for the dead.
My family knows how much I loved my father.
We cherished love.
Love is blind.
So am I.