On Diaspora: A Short Essay (Ayokunle Falomo)

I didn’t know to dig deep into my own history until I heard Ariana, Loyce and Mwende talk about how deep the colonizers dug their hands into our soils.

And so, I burrow and burrow my way through the dirt and find myself at a workshop where I then throw up all the soil my mouth is full of. Not fertile enough to grow anything, but I digress. We’re all sharing our experiences now; we take turn speaking of the language of the diaspora. That is, the common thread in the fabric of what displaces us. Sometimes this is by choice. Often times, not.

Either way, we tear through the seams. 

To be a child of the diaspora is to speak in dreams deferred and hopes shattered. It is to be stripped — skin and all. It’s baring bones and being made to watch the pulverizing. We speak in crushed and groans and blood and calloused hands. We are sons and daughters of our fathers. The rough of their palms a map. It’s us turning a when I was your age, and remember whens into lullabies we all know the words to. It’s a hymnal we sing with conviction even when hope is a sinking ship. The sweat on our parents’ faces a mighty river. We stay afloat. Somehow. It’s the belief that one day, these hands will take the harvest back home to our fathers and mothers. It’s harvest always on the horizon. But no hands enough for the gathering. It’s some dying on the fields never to know the return back to something that once was. To be African in America is to be fish out of water. It is to remember everything the water wishes to drown. It is to utter yourself unto dry land, but that is never as sturdy enough for your feet as you imagine it’d be. There’s always something in the water that knows you by name, reaches out and begs your feet to dance your way back home. And you shuffle. And shuffle. And put one left foot in front of the other. You want to dance it right.

But home is a song your feet have forgotten the steps to.

The workshop ends. I leave for the city I now call home. I hand the man at the airport my passport and he greets me in a language that is mine. Wishes me well. And I thank him. I say: Ese. Ese gan. [Forgive my memory. It is possible this was from a different trip. I’m thinking maybe it’s the one I took with my brother to Jonesboro, Arkansas; long ways from Houston, I know. Blame me for telling him to spread his wings & not let distance limit him. It’s not easy to find a school that offers a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, trust me. I know because I helped him with the search. Either way,] this is how to understand kinship. Through the way a stranger lets each letter of your name dance on their tongue. Honey seeping through teeth held in place by shade of gum similar to yours. Face plastered with the same smile you imagine adorned your mother’s upon your arrival.

Have I told you my name and how it is a joy that fills an entire house? Forgive my memory. I have? Even then, consider this an introduction. 


Ayokunle Falomo is Nigerian, American, a TEDx speaker and the author of two self-published collections: KIN.DREAD and thread, this wordweaver must! and a forthcoming chapbook, African, American from New Delta Review. His work has been featured in print and online numerous times, including in Glass Mountain, Berkeley Poetry Review, The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Media, Pressure Gauge Press, Write About Now, Mantra Review, Santa Fe Writers Project and Barzakh Magazine. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony, and his poems have been selected as finalists or winners for Fourteen Hills Press’ Stacy Doris Memorial Award, Flypaper Magazine’s Music Poetry Contest, The OffBeat’s Poetry Contest and Nimrod Journal’s The Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry. He holds a Specialist in School Psychology degree from Sam Houston State University and starting in Fall 2019, he’ll be pursuing an MFA (Poetry) degree at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program.