stories that I hate to remember but cannot forget

Justice is the only dew that should fall on the graves of girls whose eyes were once showrooms for dreams. Girls like Ochanya, Uwa, and the other nameless girls who cannot eat a kiss without puking, whose bodies are resistant to romance, whose moans string together into a dirge for their innocence. There’s a lady who is thinking about the politest way to tell her man to put a trigger warning on his crotch because of how it reminds her of the man who burgled her body. There’s another girl, holding coloured candles on her eyelids and its wax dripping from the corners of her eyes. She said it’s nothing serious… Just a memorial night in honour of something which died. That memory is a graveyard but not everything that dies has a tombstone by which one can lay flowers. Another girl in a see-through dress, thinks of herself as a midnight snack and asks to be eaten at a fee, but she is actually a flower which withered before the florist came by. A rose which did not have the luxury of getting a decent sniff from happy lovers. Some nights, I am one of these girls. My body is a scroll of many stories that make me want to be a snake. So, I can shed this skin together with the stories that I hate to remember but cannot forget.

Ochanya was raped severely by her aunt’s husband and his son from age 8 till she passed, due to reproductive health disease complications at 13 in 2017. Uwa’s lifeless and violated body was found in a church auditorium where she was fond of studying during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria.

Artist’s Statement
Rape is traumatic and not many people are brave enough to tell their stories. In fact, there are those who did not even get a chance to tell the story because they were not just raped, they were murdered right after. It is these thoughts that inspired this poem and the many different things women become while trying to survive or after surviving rape and sexual assault. This is not to make excuses for women who are caught up in one or more of the vices common to women but pain as I wrote this poem, it became clear to me that pain recreates people and sometimes it’s not for the better. I am pleased to share this poem with you because a fraction of it tells a story that is personal but all of it tells bits of stories many women have safely hidden under their tongues for years.

Ehi-kowochio Ogwiji is an agriculturist/rural development enthusiast and a freelance and creative writer/editor. Her writings have appeared in Lolwe, Harpers Bazaar, Upper Room Devotional, Gyroscope Review, Ake Review, WRR Chapbook Series, and elsewhere. Her poem, “An Artifact of a Groin War” won third place in the 2019 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize. She is also a co-winner of the 2020 Girl Rising Storytelling Challenge, and author of the poetry chapbook, Icebreaker.