And They Called Him Cain

Abayomi Animashaun

Let’s not sour our hearts
At this child,

Whose father borrowed
A stereo from an aunt,

Pulled and dusted a coat
From bent rack,

Shinned holed shoes
Despite cracks,

Then washed, dried,
And starched his only shirt

Before inviting us
To his house.

For now, let’s make
No comparison

To another, whose name
He shares,

And pay no heed
To priests,

Who, after casting beads,
Say to relatives –

“This child will waylay travelers
And, in time, his parents at night.

He’ll hold his mother under a knife
Till she puts her last necklace in his bag.”

For now, let’s nod
Gently to the father’s music.

Dance, when he dances.
Tease on neighbors
Having twins

And him
Just one baby.

Let’s eat the little cooked
From his small means –

The cold rice and stew he offered
As we came in.

Let’s raise our cups
To his wife,

Sing her health,
And before leaving

Hold this newborn
To our chests
And wish him strength

Before putting him back
On the grime-soaked bed.

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun is a Nigerian émigré, who came to the United States in the mid 1990s. He holds an MFA from the International Writing Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a PhD from the University of Kansas. A recipient of the Hudson Prize and a grant from the International Center for Writing and Translation, Abayo is the author of two poetry collections, Sailing for Ithaca and The Giving of Pears. He teaches writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with his wife and two children.