I Second Guess Religion in Place of Humanity

by Nnadi Samuel

Ma is unrehearsed mayhem:
vendor of uppercut & jawbreaking kicks.
attacks with both twins strapped to her back.
infamous for pulling off wigs at the market place.

she that volatile. though gentle, if a brawl profits
or leaves her littlun in safer hands.

Ma tells me ‘stay’,
tells me, I wasn’t raised to demand from the government without a next of kin.
her baritone, upturning the airwaves that shoulders the heft of her words.

I identify as the lone survivor of her litter.
her only chance at matrimony.

if she says, ‘do not leave’ I translate it as being haunted by her remembrance
of Damon, bleeding from an arm—bludgeoned pink by a taser.
our firstborn, rusting in the faded tint of a police van.

she studies all of my teenage temper,
knows to water down my heartbeat—
lest a cop mistakes its throbbing for rebellion.

Ma revels in her paganism.
every heathen drinks her native slang in one shot.
pinky toast to God: author & finisher of our pagan breath.
her incited ‘hallelujahs’, overthrowing priests.

twice, she guilt tripped a catechist to engage an atheist in an open fisticuff.
candle her body all night, till I could memorize the
Confessions of Augustine—with loin poised downward as an inverted comma.

In the wake of my detention, Ma tells me my oratory is a gift
for unwinning souls than for revolution.
she thinks a burden like mine wouldn’t happen to her.

I wish to account for days I outlive a handcuff—
oath-bound as a church marriage, teething into my skin.

the year a gang of berets waylays me, demanding for language.
& I pluck my wisdom tooth, handing each man a bit of shine.

when Ma tells me, her greatest flaw is being incapable of an uprising,
I observe the room for the next wig that came flying,
& the debris leads me to the back pew:

a makeshift altar where a negro in the shape of Ma, hurl ‘hosanna’ in the high heavens.
the way the act mirrors both worship & war.

the way we recite psalm till it loses taste; begs the question:
how else do I relish paradise,
other than asking a slice of my mansion here.

how do I follow in the steps of the cross,
other than nailing my demands.
other than having my body nailed to shun the Navy’s lackluster.

you should see us waltz near the barricade—
gaslighting our lungs, as we hand down lamb flesh like bread.
hands, sutured into fabric prepared to withhold a kin’s blood.

only then, would you acknowledge the religion in all of these.