No Permanent Address

To celebrate World Book Day, we’re posting a spoken word performance about books — by Obii. Enjoy.

NO PERMANENT ADDRESS

When I was 9 my mother placed three books in my hands and said, “read”

The first time I read, I arrived.

I was Nko, a girl who wanted so much more,

A dead man waiting to be avenged

One of three different women seeking recognition in a world that once said She should be seen and not heard

First within the pages of Nwapa, Emecheta & Onwu… Then… Achebe, Amadi & Ike.

I found an identity every time I needed one

An escape from the cultural afflictions that lined streets.

Or the military presence that threatened the peace of Lagos

HOME…

I’ve known no place better that the ridge back and ashy scent of pages

Where my imagination would come alive threatening to steal me from this world

Yes if you please!

Every time I was with a book

It was

*snap-snap*

Obii are you still here?

No I wasn’t

I was in my first New Yam Festival, taking my first train ride to Kafanchan

Books to me Housseni’s Thousand Splendid Suns

and I was going to catch at least nine hundred and ninety-nine.

It was then I recognised the essence of a story

and by 15 I knew I would one day tell mine.

When I discovered poetry, I decided there were not enough colours in the world.

Okeke, Christiana Rossetti, Okigbo…shaped my hand, my future.

A few weeks ago… We had to move house and all that mattered to me was 3 boxes and one ghana-must-go…

Home came to me in 3 books, then 4, then 300

One day it’ll be a million and I’ll still be counting

Because the places I want to go ,

the things I want to see, the house that built me…

All came in fragile pages that stand like pillars, 23 years and counting.

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