Ajise Vincent

self portrait as a name

Ajise Vincent

Ajise Vincent

Ajise Vincent is an Economist based in Lagos, Nigeria. His works have appeared in Jalada, Chiron Review, Asian Signature, Ann Arbor Review, Yellow Chair Review, Bombay Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, The Cadaverine, Saraba, Brittle Paper, Sentinel Quarterly, and Elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Eriata Oribhabor poetry prize 2015. He loves coffee, blondes and turtles.

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Artwork By Luckmore Tashinga Majiri

Listen to this story

Narrated by Ajise Vincent


self portrait as a name

Narrated by Ajise Vincent

Self portrait as a name

regardless of what the sun’s puissant ray

may tell you of the taste my flesh, 

i am not an emissary who curbs war 

and revolts with waves of abandon, bartering 

my blackness for a host of prayers & eulogies of twelve religions.

rather, i am the name of a man battered

by the harsh whispers of spite from

 an eloquence of lawyers whose tongues 

are mapped geographies of success;

                         globes shaped like adam’s apple  

i am the ash on sidi bouzid, searching 

for the arabic locution for scream, the

 tiny providence on the lips of tunisians

                           that will just say bouazizi

i am the drowned ghosts of refugees, the 

one minute silences invented by daughters

who only hear about their fathers during confessions 

                        of pirates smooching wooden crosses       

i am the soft natter of juveniles, 

the erratic swirl of chibok’s gospels, riding 

on the scent of betrayal from judas’s kiss 


i do not have the algorithms to night’s tempest shades,

millennia crumbling into decay.

but this is how i thwart pain, by recounting 

the jaded edges of our ancestry with songs.


The chronicle of enaissance

      “one true nationality is mankind”

                                                    ~ H.G. Wells

before men sat in bars ripe

     with desire and bawdiness,

 swigging hip-hop tunes

& exhaling dusk. we & our

     forefathers — men whose bones

shivered with age & rust, 

would sit in cycles with the moon

      as a solicitor, conversing about

the erratic dues of testaments.

it was then, our village chief,

      jaja, told us about the origin of

 gospels & tongues of light.

 how men with skin the shade

        of tar were bartered for mechanics 

of oz’s wizardry. how the innocence

 of cities were eulogized by 

      bullets because they didn’t understand 

the language of war. it was then we 

knew about marcus, malcom 

      & haile — prophets who vilified the 

blasphemies of the colonialists with 

songs arranged in quatrains. it was 

     then we knew that not even the rage of  

voodoo or tales of a messiah on a 

white horse, the enchantments against

     machines, could thwart the triumph: the 

ruin of colonization by atoms of time.


Darkness has swallowed light and no one 

                          dares to flare its diablerie.

        Tranquility has gone

             on a sabbatical. No wayfarer knows its destination. Chained to our present are 

               conundrums of coils. No one can find a sledge. Tonight, i stand under this 

              aged hut listening to      dirge notes blaring forth from the larynx of forlorn 

            villages. A dirge that pierces the sereneness of Liberia as        death's                  merchant

            bids for mortals at Earth's auction. A dirge from the babies of Uganda who were forced 

            to eat tears and mucus from their organelles at the behest of their hungry mothers.

         A dirge that echoes from the Nigerian goddess of feminism as men tying turbans 

find utility in geometries of teenagers.

 A dirge resonating from the innocence                        of 

souls sacrificed to mermaids dwelling in the Congolese waters. A dirge from the hopes      of          

      Kenyans that were made to kiss the dust by bombs defecated by al-shabab. A dirge from

           the corpse of civilization as the god of war now defiles Cairo’s sublime ancestry 

              with riddles of woes.      A dirge from the stomach of lads in Somalia whose                                                                                                    

  stomach have been    sliced by knives 

                                                    of hunger. A dirge sweeping from the 

                                                    boulevards of Durban, where blood of 

                                                      black foreigners were sprinkled on

                                                          the shrine of xenophobia. A Dirge  

                                                             written on the faces of the

                                                              populace in South Sudan

                                                                whose cry for freedom

                                                                 birthed tears of war.

                                                                 Can we say our sod,

                                                                  Sahara, is a port for 

                                                                     solace? Can we 

                                                                       beat our chest 

                                                                         that elegies 


                                                                          not in the