Delineation of a Woman’s First Child
as Her True Religion

This piece was inspired, sadly, by the number of youths that have joined Boko Haram forces in northern Nigeria. Although the poem was primarily written to showcase the jeopardy a lot of family cave in when any of their members join Boko Haram, the piece couldn’t help portraying how nonchalant the Boko Haram terrorists turn after radicalization.

When Boko Haram beat the drums of
Jihad, my brother—with a university degree,

high-paying job & family that worshipped
him—joined the dance. That was when

it dawned on me that, belief, like wildfire,
destroys every single leaf of reasoning

that sets foot on its field. Sadness fli-
tted on our mother’s skin like a moth.

& that made me remember when I
protested that the difference between

the love she had for my brother & me, was
like the distance between heaven &

earth, & she said—with a smile wide
enough to drown the history of mankind

in its fount—that a woman’s first child
is her true religion. Now we fill our

mouths with a handful of silence when
we dine, for every word we speak

reminds us of him: of how his jokes cut
through everyone else’s like a sword; of

how he would taste everyone’s food—
except father’s—like the content

were dissimilar; of how, after he grad-
uated, before every meal, we had to

whisper into God’s ears his need to be
richer than Dangote. Our father once

asked that we prayed to God to bend
his heart towards the truth, towards

his love that was threatening to trans-
form our household into a graveyard of

silence. Before a word could fall from
anyone’s mouth, mother’s tears had

dropped on the dining table. That was
the first time I saw proof of heartbreak;

like a full moon in a blue sky. It is dis-
heartening—like death—how one person’s

decision could set a whole family on fire.
You see, I deleted all the social media

platforms on my phone, for how could I
hold onto the devils that made a monster

out of my brother? Two years later, he
dropped into our home, tattered, as though

flung by hurricane. Mother fell into the
arms of her long lost son in tears of joy.

& father stood like a statue; paralyzed by
surprise laced with ecstasy. He did not

make use of more than twenty words—in
twenty-four hours—in his new dialect of

half sign language & half muteness. I
saw happiness fading away from my

parents’ faces like a hatchling’s skin. &
when we sat down to eat, he said no

word should crawl towards why he left—
he had sunk all his jovial essence in a pit

that screamed of sadness. I do not know
how to say—without my words carrying

shadows of resentment—that, I crave
the company of my brother whose spirit

was murdered by this stranger. When we
woke—the following day—he left us a

letter that read: you infidels should walk
back to God. My mother locked herself in

her room, sopping in the waters of grief &
tears. & when my father hugged me, our

tears drenching each other’s shoulders,
I whispered in his ear: your other son is

dead, & we need to find a way to bury him
in a cemetery far away from our hearts.

Abduljalal Musa Aliyu is a school teacher and poet. Perhaps, if he were born as a lower animal, he would come as a bird – considering how much he loves being free. He writes from Zaria, Nigeria. His work appears or is forthcoming on Chestnut Review, PIN, Ninshar Arts, 3 of Cups Press 2021 Anthology and elsewhere. His piece won third prize in PIN’s 2020 Poetically Written Prose Contest. He rants on Twitter @AbduljalaalMusa.



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Delineation of a Woman’s First Child as Her True Religion, Abduljalal Musa Aliyu
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Pray the Elegy, Njoku Nonso
Semper Augustus, Jessie Zechnowitz Lim
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