Mother called by Desire O.


today my mother calls me, even though we spoke the night before.

i am not ready for any of it, so i still,

until i can, until i am alone, and am charged enough to hear it 

whatever it is. 

in her first syllables, i hear that she is worried about me,

and perplexed, i ask her why, 

wondering if this is about the fact that

i poke needles through my flesh to relieve pressure

but she tells me instead, that it is because when she saw me, 

for two weeks that ended a few days ago, 

everything i did lacked soul, my usual tact. 


“are you okay? please, talk to me,” she croons,

and i think to myself, 

you will mock me or dismiss it by calling me to worship,

but i feel so fundamentally askew, and of late it is worse

and i am depressed and i cry myself to sleep because

sometimes i don’t recognize myself 

and i say, 

“oh, it’s just that i’ve been uncomfortable where i live.

it’ll be better soon. i will be better soon,” 

like that is all that it actually is.


today, my mother does not believe me, and that would hurt, except

it feels good that she can tell that 

i am not myself right now.

it helps. 

it reminds me that i am a person 

and i am not paranoid for telling myself that 

my pain and discomfort has spilled into all i do

so it is all terrible, as off-putting as i feel at my core.


“you’re so antsy. you are working too hard. relax,” says my mother,

“i need you to be okay, do you understand that? 

nobody is worth your peace,” she mutters,

and briefly, i forget that she is one 

of the greatest of the deciding factors of my rest, my peace 

i know she loves me, somewhere in that

but i don’t want a truth bomb just then, i want to be coddled

“i love you,” she says, starting the first half of our dance.


i want to be better, i want to say, 

i think that i am drowning in my own brain matter

i have a few good days and many bad ones, 

and i only gasp for air when someone that loves me holds me

and it always hurts always always always even when it doesn’t

and i don’t like the church but 

if the pastor will assure me that it will be okay 

and can promise me–like he holds the power–that this is temporary,

i will inhale and exhale till i go back to being who you remember.

i want to say, i need your help again, 

i need you to push the monsters away like you did when i was five

instead, i tell my mother i love her and will call her later 

so i can fall apart on my own time.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.