Grandmother’s Quilt

Each line on grandmother’s rumpled
face tells a story. Her eyes are wars
won, her lips are peace that comes after.
Grandmother’s quilt too, is a map, a
calabash filled with the songs of our

ancestors. She paints the details of
our past with sharp, moving
colors. Women that kept the realm,
bare chested, only a neck, laced with
cowries to keep their naked breasts

company. Bare foot, they navigated
the Idoma kingdom, raised, Ogbadigbo
making the thatched roofs over red
mud huts. We kneel on the raffia mat,
drawing shapes of things in the

sand, on the sun baked earth. Rays of
sun pierce spaces between bamboo
tree leaves to become pockets of light
on the sand like thousands of tiny, yellow
light bulbs. You, the magician who

makes pounded yam disappear before
we even sit to eat. We, too, were
once beaming, cackling, round the fire
place, exchanging stories. The glow
from the embers, lighting our faces,

giving us shadows, warming our cheeks.
Laughter, from our bellies filled the empty
spaces, voices spelling life, lapping over, like
sea waves, merging as colorful, magical,
northern lights. In the end, I am grieved,

we did not archive our own memories,
on parchment, like grandmother’s quilt.

Vera Oko

Listen to Vera reading ‘Grandmother’s Quilt  (1:58).


Vera Oko holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Film Arts and a Master’s of Arts in Women’s Studies. When I’m not writing, and even when I’m writing, I am mothering the sweetest little girl, my muse.

© text and audio 2020