My Childhood Tastes Like
Water. Like wind. Mouth open embracing life & nature. As sweet as FanIce, as tart as a cut – dabbed with TCP on cotton wool. My cowardly screams, my watery eyes. Me crying then laughing, wondering how adults changed my mood. My childhood tastes like places second generations have never seen nor touched, just fantasied. Home on my tongue, its palette of built up traffic, yam porridge & farmland. Where cows are slaughtered on back streets, people walking on blood bare feet fighting flies that perch on the tips of their ear, that stench of death. My childhood tastes like flight food, England through my eyes. Its abnormalities in weather & racial tension, how it tastes of multiculturalism & colonized spices, my childhood tastes like breast milk.
It smells of baby powder & incense, of fried fish nesting in the wool of my school blazer & the chill of ROBB smudged around my nostrils. My childhood tastes like, my childhood tastes like lemons at the site of seeing my mother cry after finding out her grandmother died. That silence, that stillness. Then a wail that could be heard on shores, on islands. I knew this feeling was bad when I saw no smiles, no loving embrace. I remain sat, cross legged, watching her tears stream like rivers.
My childhood tastes like shaki. I never swallowed the fact my Father did not fight hard enough for my Mother’s love, never stormed through rain to affirm his position & beg forgiveness, the same way I saw in movies. This shaki, that one chews & keeps chewing, till its rubbery ends weaken, this childhood of tasting rain & snowflakes, how it sticks to ice poles, to railings.
My childhood that tastes like fine wine, all its richness held within. My whole life I’ve been holding it in, making sense of memories – I have sat, watching hot knives mark the cheeks of children, parents holding their feet like cattle, if legs had mouths they would bite, they would spit, each scream like a mother’s slap. My childhood tastes like porridge that rose from my stomach as I ran for my life through bushes, feet so nimble, mind so sharp. My childhood feels like the best drug on a natural high. Like my first kiss, as I bit the flesh of her lip, ensuring she saw a longing in my eyes. This blood that’s drawn from every fight I lost, each rib that ached. This childhood of catching dandelions wishing for girls to like me.
My childhood tastes like Jollof. Like Aunties Agbo, that stains my tongue with garlic but rids my insides of the junk. It tastes of sugar cane remains on my palm after talking too much in class. My childhood tastes like bush meat, banana, burnt toast, coco pops, coconut, jellybeans, oreo, coke. With toppings of ignorance & other racial terms I’ve grown to know. My childhood tastes like toothpaste, milk, cookies & bedtime stories. It tastes like water, like wind. A gasp, to what I’m faced with, or what’s to come.
YOMI ṢODE is a Nigerian British writer, performer, and facilitator. He is a recipient of the Jerwood Compton Poetry fellowship 2019. His debut poetry collection, Manorism, will be published in spring 2022 by Penguin Press UK.