rewriting (again) or reimagining this post I wrote a while back called “Recovery.”


“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?”

-Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

 “–let me go mad, Grandmother. Let me bleed and be forever lost and no one.”

-Toni Cade Bambara from “The Survivor,” Gorilla, My Love

 The ones on the top row were the first to go.

I spat them out on a plate one day, next to the wrecked remains of chicken bones, and watched them sink into the orange oil smeared across the porcelain. I looked on, bored, almost as if they were not for me.

The wisdom ones went next, the irony so apparent it was almost nauseating.

They shattered into someone else’s mouth. The time has long come and gone, and they still can’t tell if that is grit or bone or me causing their jaws to grind and stick, worn down and rusty as an forgotten mill

Finally, it was right up front, on the left.

I missed the silent warning. The root perishing in place, turning the enamel outside slowly brown and darker still ’til the surface was crumb like the sugar I love in my tea.

How could you let it get this bad?

Well, I decided to crack and vanish myself little by awful little.

I have a little time–


My undoing is brought to you by an email alert for a school I never attended– an unidentified female was found unconscious in the bushes in front of the white house with red awnings on College Ave, it is still unclear what brought her there– the campus will continue to be disrespectfully picturesque and as it has always been and the brick buildings and pathways will be the only ones to remember this apart from you, you will never be able to unwitness yourself

I will become undone in the most spectacular way, a spectacle as in you sitting and watching the pitiful show I have been putting on. You even clapped and whistled for an encore when I fell panting to the dusty wooden floor I haven’t swept in months because I have not found the strength and…everything can maintain its immaculate image if you don’t stare too closely or too long

The discomfort you are bound to feel is only for the moment, you will convince yourself how unfortunate it is that you arrived a few minutes too early, and caught the star with unlined lips and barely any lashes to speak of, such a shame you will explain away the screeching feedback from the mics and the red rims around sunken eyes: it’s fatigue, the next one will surely be better than this, surely

I am extinguishing myself with every new keystroke, my end is waiting in the fist that has temporarily uncurled to write this to you and you helped; I even tried to keep the curtain up to show the sloppy scene changes and the faulty equipment jutting a little too far out of the wings

And so am I to blame for relishing the completion of another successful deception, for imagining myself the outrageous woman I will never be in a cloche hat topped with a feather, and a coat with a fur collar impossible to ignore, a person you cannot unfeel or forget

The stage is literal, or not. It only matters that the end is public and shared with those who are guilty and unsuspecting bystanders alike. Anywhere will do as long as you are unashamed in your wails to an unrelenting super power that you want so desperately to exist

Shake the metal armrests of the chairs in the hospital lobby until they are detached, scream in the foyer of the house so loudly that the landlord will change his mind halfway down because this one is definitely not his business, roll around in the sand, tufts of dried grass and chicken droppings at the bottom of the stairs leading to the kitchen

This is the nuclear event you have secretly been waiting for

(Image: The talented Lloyd K. Sarpong who also happens to be one of my housemates. This is a “portrait of the artist” in ducky pajamas in the middle of her undoing…)


reverse the order

It is a wonder there are any parts of myself left to write about. Take the rusty hook digging into my cheek, forcing my face into a grimace for a smile. I am the one holding it, it is this pen and workshops and operating rooms and places other sharp objects sit waiting to tear and reconstruct ugly parody of natural self. Recovery is not a destination; it is a place I keep writing myself away from

She is holding the scalpel ripping away at herself and now she has turned it on me. I am pulling further away from her and she has not noticed that her attempts at comfort and commiseration feel like the same unnecessary procedures she has had to endure. Just because our bones settle together into the same shape does not mean I want to die her sort of death

reversal of the order

is impossible. I’m writing against recovery but cannot write myself into wholeness. I speak most fluently in broken teeth spat into a hand– not mine– small strips of flesh hanging off the edges of my nail beds, splits in damaged hair pulled together too roughly. Is there anything else left to disfigure in the name of getting over and beyond…recovery will never be a destination

I have written too far away from it and everyone expects my remains as proof

reverse the order

I will still end up in ruin where I have put myself every single time, but she helped me get here and so did you


Rewrite after poetry workshop, spring 2017

To Wholeness

(as Michelle Cliff tried to do)

It is a wonder there are any parts of myself left to write about. Take the rusty hook digging into my cheek, forcing my face to form a grimace for a smile. I am the one holding it, it is this pen and workshops and operating rooms and places other sharp objects sit waiting to tear and reconstruct ugly parody of natural self. Recovery is not a destination; it is a place I keep writing myself away from.

My spirit mother is holding the scalpel ripping away at herself and now she has turned it on me. I am pulling further away from her and she has not noticed that her attempts at comfort and commiseration feel like the same unnecessary procedures she has had to endure. Just because our bones settle into the same shape does not mean I want to die her sort of death.

I’m writing against recovery but cannot write myself to wholeness. I speak most fluently in broken teeth spat in my hand, small strips of flesh hanging off the edges of my nail beds, splits in damaged hair pulled together too roughly. Is there anything else left to disfigure in the name of getting over and beyond–

Recovery will never be a destination. I have written too far away from it and everyone expects my remains as proof.



A Kind of Woman

She, the kind of woman who curses around other people’s children and smiles and sticks her tongue out when they tug their innocent ones away from her evil. A Sula kind of woman, collarbones jutting out threats yet to be spoken, squinting eyes and trusting of no one­– you thought you were special– the daughter that slipped through Mama Day’s hands so she could cradle the dreams of others, nurse them to health, hand them cups of punch, and candles, never got the chance to be the child that went astray, brought shame to the steps of the silver trailer

She, torturing sleepless souls she doesn’t plan to love, you the woman she left behind in Miami in the small house with yellow walls and white metal curling around the windows, veins in a vanilla-scented neck pulsing in fruitless craving for the kind of woman who never looks back– she hasn’t called in months but her hair is still knotted around your hairbrush bristles

The kind of woman who has ground up any pride you thought you had and sprinkled the powder first over her right shoulder, then over the left, she has walked away wearing your possibility of future love around her neck held high, metal pendant heating the thin skin stretched across her breast bone, she is the kind of menace you were warned to avoid and now you pay


You do not know that you have let a vulture into your home. Sometimes I wait just outside the door to your room, sometimes at the foot of your bed, or at the end of a phone call with angry crackling interrupting your retelling of your latest private tragedy. I can only thrive as long as you are dissolving into a pool of your former self, as long as I can dance to the sound of air scratching the inside of your throat as you attempt to pull in your last breaths. I may help you to endure the worst moments of your pain while you’re awake. At night, I slide past the door you should have locked and use my nails to undo the rough stitches on your wounds, making sure not to scratch your ruined flesh. In the morning you will ease out of bed, one sore limb at a time, carrying the parts of you that hurt and laying them on my lap. You do not know that each bandage I use to cover you is laced with the sting of my resentment and that your healing will never come. You think your body is turning on itself, refusing to return to health, but I am actually massaging disease deeper into you each time you think– this will be the last time. I understand that this dying can be a painstaking process, but my patience slightly exceeds my thirst for blood. So, I will wait.

Not Everyday Rejection!

Well, the title of this post isn’t exactly accurate. I’ve had the usual helping of rejection emails for the past few weeks, which is nothing new or interesting. For once though, they’ve been off set with some more pleasant news, including a brief mention in The Review Review of my poem “Razors for Breakfast,” published on this blog and in The Fem Lit Mag earlier this summer. It’s pretty exciting when someone who isn’t your friend/relative/favorite professor compliments your work! It doesn’t help that I’m apparently predisposed to be bigheaded because of the combination of being an only child and a Leo, but “I would very much like to be excluded from that narrative.” (Taylor Swift is NOT our friend, but I have to admit that using art to vent about men who have been particularly terrible can be very satisfying. See previous and upcoming posts on this blog 🙂 ) But on a serious note, it means so much when something you create resonates with another person, especially when that person is a complete stranger. You can read the review here. You can also find the poem I had published on The Fem here, along with other pieces I’ve had published.


I wake up to warfare every morning. Fists clenched, spirit ready to pounce on the air and claw holes into it. I’m going to implode. I can only be as scathing as I desire when I am my own target. I’m lying down, and my pulse is running marathons inside my wrists. There is nothing left of me to dismantle. I have already used the edges of these words to chop up my self and feed it to the greedy rage growing more robust with each day that passes, the one that lives in the part of the wardrobe I can’t see from my bed. I’ve made a confidante out of this anger that is feasting on me non-stop. I give more and more of myself to it during the early hours of the morning so that it’s full and drowsy by the time I’m ready to wake up.

I re-enact the motions of preparing for the day. I am my favorite dress– black, thin-strapped, low square neckline and very clingy, slits on the left side– in your face. My body in your face because at least that, I can control. I walk through my new fury-tinted life, sprinkling swear words in everyday conversation like part of a ceremony from which I can draw some sort of power. My skin has gained a rough covering, unsightly to look at, even more to the touch, but I don’t care.


I turn the volume of music in headphones loud enough for it to hurt my ears, bumping into groups of white men in khakis and pastel-colored shirts. 5-4-3- it was only one man. I’m determined to take up too much space, sighing audibly and rolling my eyes skyward until people move out of my way, pushing them with my weight if I have to, making sure they feel the bone sticking out of my shoulder.

I have just learnt what it feels like to combust from the inside. This condition involves my insides melding together and settling with a heavy finality at the bottom of my abdomen. It comes from a regular diet of savoring and digesting all kinds of hate, from casual insults to bitter animosity which sting on contact with my self. The problem is aggravated by all the insults I wish I could throw into the dartboard I want to make out of you. For now, they are flying around in my own air space and pricking me instead. There is no cure for me as long as I keep nursing this illness while you proceed healthy and unburdened.


My frustration is outrageous. It clears a way for me before I arrive, discordant cymbals striking thighs and warped hands being used to play trumpets. I am an ugly parade. Lucky for you that this is the least of my wrath you have had to endure.

Lady, like

I was not raised to be pleasant, to say yes to things because “it’s just how things are done.” I had five mothers, and each of them was preparing me for a world in which it wouldn’t matter how close together I kept my knees if someone decided to push them apart against my will. I’m supposed to provide unlimited access to myself, mind, body, soul, sense of humor, mental health, of course you didn’t force me, I didn’t say no outright. Did I? Could I?

Lady, like one who cannot and will not ever complain that she could’ve walked through the day bathing in warm air, instead of cowering indoors with the curtains closed because the burden of other people’s worries and perversions have formed a hump on her back she doesn’t want anyone to see. Ladylike, doesn’t wear shorts no matter how hot the August is, hides some of that skin from predators with claws for hands and a sense of entitlement as big as a court-mandated settlement check. Ladylike, it doesn’t matter how much you drink because if someone wants to conquer your time and your being, you will be laid to waste, no man’s land locked out of the gates of propriety.

I had five mothers and now I have four, and not one of them is ladylike. They are not interested in being liked or handed nods of approval as they process towards the altar, hands clasped in laps covered in white: I have sinned, Amen. Somewhere along the way I began to misuse the self with which I was anointed and entrusted. I believed that the width from my right hip to my left was the same length of the arm that would push me out of the door after the body it belonged to was satisfied and done with me. I took out all the tendons from my arms, my lower back, the backs of my knees, and used them to build a ladder for everyone to climb, one step closer to comfort, to freedom, to the candy land in the sky where nameless women like myself are dead during the day and wake up only at night to pleasure whoever demands it. My body is battered and bruised on these pages because the world has taught me that this body is all I have to dissect and give away. So now I sit, boneless in a heap of myself.

Lady, like the woman my five mothers do not want me to be. They are not interested in wringing their hands in muted despair, waiting their turn, watching mortals who are not even worthy of “demon” status tear souls to shreds between jaws fortified by privilege and light slaps on the wrist. My five mothers are not interested in being ladylike, and neither am I.

What I’ve been reading:

Our Hands are Tied because of this Damn Brother-Sisterhood Thing

Letter to Stanford Attacker

6 Women Allege that XO Senavoe Raped Them

(Image: My mum sent this photo of herself, in the sunglasses, and my two aunts and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever seen! Carefree and flawless before they were hashtags…)

Spin Doctor

Sand from the beach tainted with buried rubbish, dead starfish, bits of broken beer bottles green like the sea looks right now. Only you can scoop handfuls of dirt and create an addiction, irresistible to the sweet tooth, brown sugar sticking to the roofs of our mouths.

Don’t mind the sharp pieces; they’re not metal or bone, I promise. Chew harder, focus, it’s only difficult because it’s worth it 

You are an expert at feeding people the same death that awaits them when hard work eventually snaps their spines neatly in the middle. You call it opportunity.

Your hands are dry and hot, a furnace to melt before you mold the fragments of broken glass hearts into whatever shape you want. Twist them into shot glasses, paperweights, award statuettes like pyramids engraved with your name and accomplishments:

In recognition of your achievement in the realm of empty futures constructed using the blind hope of others as pillars  

Baron Samedi, an evil name ending with a European flourish to add to your allure, one who inspires fear and gives us something to flee from. Charlatans fashion themselves in your image and call it inspiration. Despots model their look after you, locking the progress and prosperity of an entire people in an iron safe next to stacks of foreign currency and ugly gold jewelry.

More dangerous than a blatant opportunist, you don’t grab greedily, but rather leech love and admiration with finesse and carefully calculated movements. Fiddle with the cuffs, adjust a jacket button that is not in need of fixing, clear your throat roughly and with authority, toss slightly outdated slang together with words from the back of the dictionary you think we forgot to read.

Spinning all the people around you on the tip of a paper knife, not so sharp as to cause permanent injury but just enough to maintain a dull throb and desperation for relief.

You have added a new funeral song to our hymnal, one that is and isn’t about you. Singing is almost a fruitless exercise because you will still manage to turn it into a tribute to your greatness.

Instead we scream 

Daily Dose

I had a poem published on Brittle Paper today! You can read it here:

In Search of Cleansing | by Zoë Gadegbeku | African Poetry

(Also, if you don’t read Brittle Paper already, you should!)

With regards to the bio, for some reason I’m only ever able to take myself seriously when it comes to writing dark, fictional things. If you know me or read this blog regularly, or both, you won’t be surprised by how extra it is. I don’t think I’ve reached the point where I can list my accomplishments, as few as they are, in a serious, “here’s my business card” kind of voice. Not yet anyway!

I’m also full of ideas at the moment which accounts for the double posting in one day. I’m so glad the wall I hit last week was only temporary!


I want to learn the measured arrogance that Chloe handed out to anyone who thought to try and degrade her long before she was known as Toni. I’ll pick up Zora’s knife by the blade, to slice off useless self-deprecation don’t worry it’s fine/who am I to/how could I/oh no, not I at the root.

I could be sitting anywhere, on a bus or at home with only a humming fridge for company, practicing with my feet. Flex, stretch, pointed toes always. Every rotation of my ankle should transmit the elegance to which I have only aspired until now, each chipped toenail a reflection of the audacious flaws I’ll eventually learn to celebrate.

I’m training myself to laugh a ruthless open-throated laugh; to spit at fancy gatherings and pick my teeth after the dessert has been cleared away; to dine in private with a spotless tablecloth and matching napkin tucked into the collar of a silk dress I do not yet own.

The only consideration I’ll maintain is for my own ability to build and destroy at will–with words– burning down egos like enemy forts on occupied land and propping up heads pushed down under the force of self-doubt.

I’ll begin to measure myself out as freely or as carefully as I choose. Some days it shall be unbearable, suffocating, a thick sheet of perfume hanging in a room long after I’ve left, and on others a light mist resting on cheeks and foreheads when the rain starts to settle.

I am in complete control of the dosage, and today I am enough.