They Came for Me

Uchechi Kalu

             [This poem is read by the authorspeaker icon]

for Lisa Jensen

I am not wrong. Wrong is not my name.
My name is my own/my own/ my own
– June Jordan

somebody came for my brother
spilled his body across the freeway
so he never made it to 18

they have come from my mother’s heart
sometimes she says she can’t hear it beat
defeated from burying too many children

they have come for my father’s smile
these days he wears a frown
clutching the Bible
reciting scriptures
instead of letting the river fall down his face
‘ cause he’s supposed to act like a man

they have come for my older brother
car accident crushed his legs
dangling from a wheel chair
he only stares through steel bar cubicles
orange has become the only color
in his wardrobe
his skin burst open with blisters
guess the guards had nothing better to do
that morning

they have come for my family
they have come for my grandmother
never made it past 40
gave birth to 9 kids
only 2 survived
only one is alive
my father
gave birth to me
and I still walk this earth

they have come for my body
grazed the land between my thighs
looking for gold/diamond/oil
while I toil/bend my back
to fill their mouths

they have come for my body
fault lines etched across my back
my stomach a hollow grave
to bury everyone else’s blame
take on everyone else’s shame
instead of singing my name

they have come for my ovaries
cysts hoot and howl
dance across my belly

they have come for my smile
the one thing I took back from my house
didn’t let my mother’s reminders
to keep my mouth shut stop me
maybe she thought
this crumbling city of teeth
held nothing but ruins

they have declared war on my people
my spirit
sometimes it’s my family come to take
sometimes it’s my government
come to take
sometimes it’s me come to take

they have come
to offer you Big Mac meal deals
a four wheel drive
a big back yard
but I don’t need this
I’ve got my smile
that I won’t hide anymore
my lips will not wait at the door
I will not be your safari getaway
African queen
I will not let your tour
my land/my people
I will not let you spread
my legs open and drill

I will not become your shell oil whore
‘ cause if and when you come
I will come
take what’s mine
‘ cause I need my smile
my cotton pillow hair
the way I stare at anyone
who looks my way
I need my sweaty palms
my crooked teeth
my bone black hair
I need my lips
my voice
my choice
to love anyone I please
to tease you
with the possibility
of coming home with me
I need my laugh
my full belly ain’t gonna swallow your shit anymore laugh
my devastating/contemplating
what to do about the next tragedy
in my life laugh
my 10:00 in the morning lazy Saturday
with you in my arms laugh
I need myself
I need myself
I need myself
I need myself whole
I need myself whole
I need myself whole
speak in tongues to my face
saying no to disgrace
I need myself whole
I need to rebuild this city
and begin

Uchechi Kalu also reads Marilyn Buck’s “1950’s Girl Thinking about Love on a Sweltering Summer Day” and “Blindfolded Men.”

Uchechi Kalu reading at Wild Poppies release.
Photo: Scott Braley


Uchechi Kalu is a Nigerian-born poet who has conducted writing workshops at schools, prisons and community organizations. Her book of poetry, Flowers Blooming against a Bruised Grey Sky, is published by Whit Press. Uchechi first met Marilyn while teaching a Poetry for the People class at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California.

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