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Zainabu Jallo


Zainabu Jallo

Jallo is a playwright and poet. She has also reported for newspapers and magazines on development issues in the African continent. She has a degree in Theatre and Communication Arts. She is currently pursuing an MSc in Globalisation and Development. Her forthcoming books include Some of the People I am  and Onions Make us Cry (A play).


 Three Poems

I am people. I should like to invite you to my home. We should have a drink...perhaps two,
Watch a game show on my new TV, we shall absorb ourselves in light- hearted chatter,
 rid ourselves of grievous words like genocide and constipation.
we can sip mango smoothies on the roof top as we watch the rainbow stripes run into one another
We could talk about the goodness in sunflower seeds and acquire a taste for green tea.
We would make newer fragrances for wild flowers.
This home exudes warmth and freshness. I should like to invite you to my home…
but I have no idea
where it is


A Search for all Things Yellow
We steer a yellow car
In a search for all things promising
The sunflower; a bloom of peacefulness
The canary; a melody of cheeriness
The buttercup; a cluster of loveliness
The sun; a spring of brightness

On a red dirt road
Snaking through the animated marketplace
Slowed by life's entire burden......
Up onto the rusty bridge

Today the drowsy chameleon is pale
I can be yellow if you want, he says.
This doesn't happen of course.
We stay at a motel with lights of neon
It is the first of May
All of our labour we celebrate in spite
The yellow car drives us ahead
We say yes to all things no
Taking the extra miles; draining all of our sweat
Bowing to hideous cunning wolves
We make an effort for the next fellow
A shot at creating friend from foe
Believing in the metaphysical realm, without a bet
In the car of yellow we drive into a mystic grove
Right on to the cliff afar
Upon the precipice
A place of hard-hitting emotions
A final abode for decisions
Hearts virtually gorged by angst
Seeking the valued jewel of peace
The bottom of the sea could hold all the yellow
Drive us over
Drive us under
Drive us backward
Drive us forward
Drive us in circles
Drive us across
Drive us over
Drive us into a search for all things yellow




I am voices. I am crowd. I am  people.
Today we watch as our meaning slips away. As our pegs
fail us and the skies devour our ragged garments. we are left with
our names only, the thunder
threatens to consume that too...
There goes Asama'u
There go her flaying arms
Same arms that laboured tirelessly on stinting farms
Over there! In the flood
See as she fights quietly
Asama'u, wife of Lawan
Asama'u, mother of seven plus one
On shoulders well worn; she bears a world's heaviness
In palms splintered and torn; she bears a people's wealth
On her honest feet marching the dusty path all day from Udaba
On her prudent brows, no allusion of a frown as she trades and barters in Bagana
Oh! Oh! Oh! Asama'u
The sure strength of a woman
What helplessly carries you away so?
What hopelessly breaks your spirit so?
What weight sinks you to the bottom low?
Asama'u , mother of the tropics
Daughter of the Sahara
Is this your heartbeat then?
A heart crafted with the finest of diamonds
A mother of all things real; of pain, of gain
Of sane and insane; of slavery, of liberty
Of strength and weakness; of laughter, of tears
Of security and fears
Of old and new; of spring and her flowers
Of the born and unborn; of days and her hours
There goes Asama'u
The one who bore faith in humankind
Pushing feebly against the forces of human nature
The one who dared us to dream
Pushing against the cold-hearted creature
A grove of all things hopeful; our Asama’u
The unifier of our hesitant heartbeats;
A soothing balm for our neurotic persons
Swim back ashore Asama'u;
Wrestle the storm Asama'u
Come back Asama'u
Who saves Asama'u?
Who saves our saviour?



Dear Inner Man

Of course I see the flourishing buttercups
And the beauty of the wild lilies; I see how they carry on seemingly unperturbed about where the wind chooses to go. They are not bothered about the colour of tie you choose to wear in a bid to impress the panelists.
Neither do they wonder why the teeth-whitening toothpaste you got does every other thing but whiten your teeth.

These beauties...they carry on, like the most amazing rock formations sitting in truth; for they are who they are and not who or what you think they are.
I see them ...I see them

I also see the left leg of a fairly new sneaker.
It belonged to the little boy whose poster we all stood and mused over.
“What will anyone do with a three-year-old?”
“Oh, how cute...look at that charming smile”
We were swathed in goose bumps and empathy,
deeply not ever wanting to own the name signed at the bottom of the poster.

Beneath the wild beauties which behold a magnetic charm are the decomposing body (nourishing the bloom) and his non-biodegradable left foot sneaker.
So from this beauty, I am inevitably demagnetised, not alienated. For I too, should love to immerse my being in the paradisiacal dreamland of beauties ... In the same manner a well-fed cat finds her Valhalla in a ball of wool.
So I see, I see the putrescence in the soil upon which these adorable flowers bloom; Same flowers that shall sit in yours and my clay vases...to bring charm to this half-lit room...but more than anything else I am drawn to the questionable soil.
These mountains, they are breathtaking....look harder, that is a volcano brewing and not a strawberry flavoured topping.

So I live, for both the beauty and unbeauty.
As I listen to Leonard Cohen’s that’s no way to say good bye, It also is a line from the quivering lips of the soldier's wife....same soldier blown into thirty-something pieces in the market place that very hot day in Baghdad. It is also a line from the soldier’s son...same soldier who took two shots in the head from the Janjaweed rebels two nights to the end of his peacekeeping mission.
As I read Neruda’s love poems, I am on the phone with Lisa, whose fiancé has driven 25 kilometres to tell her he will call sometime in the future.
I see the blind leader walking his followers to the edge of the cliff....I also see another, having a picnic with his own brood on the greenest patch.
Like the lens of my worn out Sony camera I should like to see the picture as an unselective story...just as it is.
But this body and soul which produces the fated goose bumps
selects her bits of the picture and highlights them right in your face.
Then maybe you won’t look the other way and pretend not to be aware. 


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