Schwa: In a sound where all Consonants mean Loss

By Nnadi Samuel

Each sergeant here mispronounces the initials of a lost

cousin—displacing the schwa. I remedy their ignorance without fail,

screaming: the /miriəˈm/ with an upturned syllable',

as sound approaches & falls off their mashed earlobes.

my aunt, fevered in the ricochet.

& on folding back to reecho their lapses,

she wraps my fist to a note 'á oni sukún omo.

the snow kills better without a black accent'.

say we persist, my cousin would be gone wearing that name.

Iowa lives up to this misnomer, knowing itself a bully all year-round:

ruptures the vowel in your name, to stifle your presence.

if this isn't reproach, a part of it lurks around.

imagine those days your name stales cold—unaccentuated in between

chequebooks & work permit. the boss who sours your night shifts,

because your initials don't make the cut. the Caucasian girl who pronouns

you in the wrong. imagine a colleague seeks my opinion in christening

his daughter, & I strengthen her lips with a little white, deboning the negro stank.

that way, if we ever wake up to her absence like my cousin,

she won't be found bludgeoned—laying ruptured, as the vowel in your name.

upturned, as the syllable in /miriəˈm/ you mispronounce:

the pose a crying mother keeps,

when she folds in between—weary as a naira note.



NB: 'á oni sukún omo— is a Yoruba adage meaning "may we not cry over you."