How To Paint A Girl by Gbenga Adesina

This is the Nigerian poet Gbenga Adesina.

He is visiting New York for a few weeks and stayed with us for a few days. (When people stay with you, it is a window into something else.) He and I caught each other in passing and sat at our dining room table a few times and ended up talking about many things. He practiced for a reading of his work while in New York by reading a few of them to me: Me. An audience of one. I said, “So slow! Like you are singing the words!” And it does! It sounds like he is singing. And then, being moved, I impulsively said, “Will you read while I play?” So, before he left our house, he read this poem while I improvised. It took probably 2 minutes (because we did it twice).

I want you to know about this poem and this writer because I am finding that being in a space in which room has been made to reflect and create is healing: for everyone.

This is his poem How to Paint A Girl which was published in the New York Times Magazine on July 8, 2016.

How to Paint a Girl

 

With him you come to learn
that when a man is called to paint a girl
he paints all of himself.
His tiny songs are the floss in her hair,
the tulips on her blouse are the stories
his sisters told him under half-nights long ago
in the lost country of music. With their half-furls and
follicles and buds and brown twigs that speak more
of withering things. The tiny sigh, the one you almost
didn’t see, the silence in her eyes, is the night his mother
died while he fought rebels in the Nigerian army.