Uchechi Kalu

They Came for Me | “1950’s Girl Thinking about Love” | “Blindfolded Men”

Uchechi Kalu at Wild Poppies release, photo by Scott Braley

Uchechi Kalu reading at the Wild Poppies CD release party, La Peña, Berkeley.
(see larger image)

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 Correcitonal Institution in Dublin, California.

“They Came for Me”

Uchechi Kalu

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

© 2002

1950’s Girl Thinking about Love

On a Sweltering Summer Day
Marilyn Buck

[This poem is read on the CD by Uchechi Kalu. MP3 of this poem]

your love would be
like popping the cap off
a green-glass Coke bottle
frosty cold sweaty
from the ice chest
at the Mojave desert "last stop"
filling station

August 1998

“Blindfolded Men”

Marilyn Buck

[This poem is read on the CD by Uchechi Kalu. MP3 of this poem]

A row of men are marched, youth and ancients, blindfolded men,
hands bound tight behind, steps off balance, blindfolded men.

The line holds fast, the breath of one measures for the next;
prodded toward trucks, they stand attendance, blindfolded men.

The line folds up, each captive hoisted in by soldiers;
called a package in GI parlance, blindfolded men.

In hooded darkness, lines of men are moved to prison camps;
they listen as the sightless do, awaiting entrance, blindfolded men.

The line unfolds, dissolves into a breathing pool
bodies spread murmuring endurance; blindfolded men.

Captors guard blind-eyed over the tormented sea,
ignore the clank of manacled dance: blindfolded men.

Unfaced men become commonplace on front-pages
media disguises intolerance: blindfolded men.

Indifferent citizens don’t care to look behind prisoner masks;
the tortured would stare back, askance. Blindfolded men.

May 2002

poems © the authors
compilation © The Freedom Archives