Poetry: When I Turned Twelve by MOHAMMED YUSUF

A poem contained by a single childhood memory. The poem’s logic moves between the space of domesticity and the ominous as a young Nigerian boy comes to understand what his role in his family will become. Yusuf’s poem guides its readers through a coming-of-age moment that situates itself between duty and family.




Mama told me that

no one should trespass

into your field. no one!


that it holds the treasures

meant for the one.


So, on one Eke market day,

Papa took me into confidence


Said in six years,

you would be due for

the men’s market


& as Mama haggled away at Eke,

Papa raided my field

& plundered.


On her return,

she pulled her index digit

vertically over her lips


but she never said

Papa was the one.


Mohammed Yusuf

Mohammed U. Yusuf is a young African poet, writer and lover of real human stories who lives and writes from somewhere in Nigeria. He explores themes around humanity, memory and the socio-political. Some of his works have appeared—or are forthcoming—in Olongo Africa Journal, Writers Space Africa- WSA, ARTmosterrific Chapbook: African Politics, RoseyRavelston Books, Lunaris Review, The Shallow Tales Review, Salamander Ink, Best New African Poets Anthology(2021), among others.

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