Grandmother said there is a slut trapped in every woman, a wild taboo that must never be set free.
So mother dipped her fingers in a tub of pomade, and massaged her daughter’s clitoris until the puny thing grew thinner and disappeared into the fold of skin.
Ugwu nwanyi bu di ya. Imekwa enu, mee ani, ugwu nwanyi bu di ya.
She packed up her books, took his name, and became dignified.
Perhaps in the next life, she will come as a man. Perhaps she should make the best of this body. So she made her husband a pot of soup and prepared a table for him to eat. She laid back and watched him eat.
And though his face was riddled with pleasure, she did not know the taste of her own food.
I stood under a shower, my breasts drooping closer to my stomach, and I thought: oh, you sad things! It’s too early to fall asleep.
There was a masseuse who lived down the street. Her fingers were sleek and long, body thin and shapely.
One day, I stretched on the bed and let her hands work my nerves, her fingers easing my knotted tension.
My slut stirred, and I bit my tongue until I tasted my own blood.
Tell me how to make you happy, he said. Here, take my hands, speak with them.
I don’t know what happy is, I said. What does it taste like?
Like the guavas after the rains had washed the trees of Harmattan dust, or the onugbu soup after mama had added the dollops of ogiri?
Did I tell you about the girl who took a hammer to my slut’s cage and caused everything to fall apart?
Sex had always been a ceremony for man’s orgasm. My hands were just tools to stir my husband’s eagerness, my body his to devour. He would hover above me, face stretched in taut lines, sweat breaking from the sides of his face. And I would think, oh, how beautiful it is for this giant to quiver above me like the okra branch in the winds. And when he collapsed on my chest, I would hold him and think, I had fulfilled my purpose. ’Cos what else was the purpose of the woman than to keep her man satiated?
Until Nneka. Wild one, with a body that tapered like a Coke bottle and limbs that stretched from heaven to earth. Nneka, with a mouth that spat words like hot corns, her head filled with sin. She gazed at my cage, shook her head at my slut and said, “Chai, who did this to you?”
Then she picked at my locks, tantric fingers exposing the other way of freedom, and I have never been the same again.
Grandmother looked at daughter and said, “This one is spoiled.”
Mother shook her head and said, “Her chi succumbed to slumber and this happened.”
Daughter strutted away. A proud slut.
My husband used to joke about how docile I was before I joined the choir. One day, he paused between thrusts to trap my moans with the flat of his palm.
“Who are you?” he asked. “I have never seen you like this before.”
I bit his hand, threw my head back, forced him down and he disappeared in between my thighs.
He has yet to emerge ever since.
—from Rattle #65, Fall 2019 Tribute to African Poets