adaeze elechi

47636367-engrave-isolated-lion-illustration-sketch-linear-artReasons I Don’t Belong / Call Me Adaeze

Reason #1: I know whenever the teacher gets to my name on the roll
without them even having to say anything
I see it in the confusion upon their features
the apprehension of having to face a beast
that they can’t even name

they look over the class as a silent plea
for someone to let them out of the Lion’s Den
so I free them, I raise my hand and say
“It’s Adaeze, but you can just call me Daisy”

and they smile and thank me
for turning the beast into a teddy bear
for casting a light upon the shadows
and making them less fearful
they never ask how to pronounce it correctly

Reason #2: I grew up in an African family
My parents hearts are back at a place
that I can’t ever truly call home
their hearts beat there
and all I ever hear is an echo
in my chest

they used to call me Oreo
my skin manufactured with genes straight from the motherland
my appearance foreign
yet when my people see me
they call me American

Reason #3: When my teachers don’t try to pronounce my name correctly
it reminds me that I am not American enough to be American
I am a visitor in this house
and their polite smiles ask me when I’m heading “home”
My name too outlandish to fit in their mouths properly
I’m no Ashley
or Adrienne
or Alexis
My name is a brand telling them that I don’t belong to their herd

Reason #4: When I am in the motherland
they ask me why my tongue refuses to speak
the language of my blood
dead lips like dead weight
When I am there, I am a stranger
When I am here, I am an outsider
they ask why I am so Americanized and I say I don’t know
I never thought about it
but the truth is that I can’t ever forget about it

Reason #5: I learned to ride the bicultural divide
before I ever even learned to ride a bike

Straddling the feelings of loneliness
for a place only my siblings understand

Yearning for a mother who can’t see me as her child
Living with a foster parent who knows that I am not hers
Speaking a language that my lips were not meant for

I don’t know what I am
When I say I am Nigerian I feel like I’m lying
How can you come from somewhere you know so little about?
How can you say you are from a home you’ve barely ever set foot in?

Reason #6: When I was born, my mom wanted to name me Sandra
she wanted to make the assimilation just a little bit easier
make me just a bit more American
not something to be looked at twice

she wanted me to melt into this melting pot they call America
without question
but my father wanted to name me Adaeze
he wanted me to know that I am a product assembled in America,
but my parts are not from here
he wanted to give me a reminder
he wanted me to know that I am something different
My name is Adaeze
Ada means the first daughter
and Eze means the king
he wanted to remind me that I am royalty
that my heritage is purple blooded
so I raise my hand and I say
“You know what? Call me Adaeze. Ah­day­zay.”


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