If you ask me: who are you?/I would reply: I am the man/Covered all over with tattoos of pain/With a body riddled with holes/With teeth fused together/I am the map of a country sold..Poem by Ogundare Tope.

 My pain is inked on every
 Inch of my skin, these tattoos are
 A map of a country riddled with
 Holes. You can run your fingers over
 The memory traces that dates back
 Into the future.

 I was first inked at birth
 At the rude awakening of
 Collapsed lungs learning to
 Cry to survive.

 The pain was inked in
 inches till I became old
 Enough to fight back against
 The rough hands that held me
 Down. Look closely at my skin
 And you will see the beginning
 Of the wobbly lines.

 I stopped crying when I realized
 That my tears were the currency
 Of exchange for a service I didn't
 Request for; that it was the final
 Sign of my subjugation. I winced and
 Squeezed my face, clenched my teeth
 Till they became fused.

 I became an addict; craving pain
 Coming again and again and again
 It's all I know – pain, it's all I have
 And it's become synonymous with
 My identity.

 If you ask me: who are you?
 I would reply: I am the man
 Covered all over with tattoos of pain
 With a body riddled with holes
 With teeth fused together.
 I am the map of a country sold
 Into slavery by his own kin,
 Traded for thirty pieces of silver
 And nailed to the cross.

 I am the man risen from the dead
 Rising above the past
 Healing from the pain
 Inking upon my heart a map
 Of freedom.

 [Ogundare Tope is Nigerian poet, short story writer, and a psychiatrist]


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