Bad English

A Poem

By Toyosi Salami

after you are through with university at a fine school in America

you return home but reluctantly.

you have to be forced back. they had to collect the sea and put it on your back,

you don’t want to come back to this god forsaken country

you have forgotten that you did not go to America for holiday

you get to your father’s hometown and complain about all the traffic and filth. you are right in this one,

Nigeria is a mess. but it was also a mess before you left,

but you are right. things should have gotten better.

you cringe at your uncle’s kola nut stained teeth

and his Yoruba accent, the way he adds “h” as a prefix to every word that starts with a vowel

and doesn’t pronounce the h in words that actually start with it

you call him “uncultured” and “crude” behind his back

when he makes grammatical blunders, you label him uneducated and local.

you laugh at his wife’s synthetic weave-on

you turn up your nose at kerosene-stove cooked food

in their kitchen,

you turn up your nose at transparent plastic bowls with oil marks at them

and say they are unclean

you call his house a shabby mud hut

you talk condescendingly to everybody

your father should have told you

your uncle was the one who sold his only plot of land at Ijebu

and added the money to what your father already had

to send you to your fine American school