Mouthing amendments, our mother studied
the Constitution. Her whisper
not English, not her
but something lower—
a car revving its engine.
Our mother memorized presidents, capital cities,
adopted habits like moving
her green card from one closet to another,
kept a manila folder for every year of her life.
In the kitchen she turned Cream
of Wheat into tuwo shinkafa,
cooked kuka until our Catholic school jumpers stunk
of crushed baobab leaves. She’d spend days in
her garden refusing to explain anything
but the marigolds.
In America, no one would say her name
correctly. I watched it rust
beneath the salt of so many tongues
like a pile of crushed Chevys.
At night, she prayed to Allah
for something from America that was more
than children. Come weekends,
we were counting
the naira in her underwear drawer.
From her calling cards, we learned
Naa goodee meant
Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter is a Nigerian-American poet, writer, and editor. She received her BA in English and economics from Clemson University and an MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. Hafizah’s poetry and prose have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, TIN HOUSE, BOSTON REVIEW, LONGREADS, AND MCSWEENEY’S INDELIBLE IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS, among others.
An editor for Little A and TOPPLE Books from Amazon Publishing, Hafizah serves on the planning committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and lives in Brooklyn, New York where she is working on a novel about coming to America and a full-length nonfiction project about the intersection of anti-blackness, climate change, language, borders, and the aftermath of American slavery in daily life.