I felt a furnace burning inside me as I stood, staring at the page of the book my younger sibling was holding. He kept watching my face as he smirked, praying I shouldn’t find an answer to it this time. On the page was a plant with prickles all over it and purplish stem. He used his hand to cover the caption text, that contained the description of the image.
He has grown naughtier over the years. Despite the margin of five years, he wouldn’t give in to the fact that I’m his elder brother and should be treated as such. Even, the welts I’ve made all over his skin–which has made mum abuse me several times– don’t freak him a bit. He would say the words I’ve told him several times not to repeat: “It’s five years that you take from me, nothing else… I even know book than you, agbaya”
I try all I can, to convince him that I’m better than he is in all ways. He pushed me to the tune of making sure I go through every new book that was bought for him. I’m very sure he will come someday come with questions that he believes I can’t know.
He came that evening with a book and challenged to ask me a question. I simpered and just ignored him. He became persistent, bragging that he has said it that he’s brilliant than I am. He knows how to provoke me to do something against my wish. I asked him angrily: “what’s your problem this time?” He brought out the book he was hiding behind him and opened a page.
“Oya what’s the name of this plant? Shebi you’re a biology student?” I looked at him in disdain and tried to figure out the answer.
I kept watching for about sixty seconds, to get the most accurate answer to his challenging question. I went back and forth in my brain to get an answer. But, I couldn’t find one.
He started laughing heavily after about two minutes I had been staring at the book without a reply. He uttered some insulting words and left happily. It was as if I was dumped in the pit of shame. I couldn’t talk till the end of the day.
After I made sure he had slept that night, I carefully stuffed out the book from his bag to check what the plant name is. I flipped through the pages until I got to image and saw the italicized text written just below it. I read it out quietly: “Thistle…” I shook my head in disdain for myself. I navigated to the next page to see what’s written about it. It was poetic lines:
I see zillion images
in your purplish dress
it’s the color of the robe in the neck of royals
an emblem of luxurious living
and a symbol of wisdom.
Your prickly covering
that you shield yourself from herbivores
tells the world about your wonder
and the defense skill you’re blessed from the sky.
Kudos to you,
herb of witches
you look into the eyes of sun
with your unwavering leaves
beating the witches on their chest.
I heard about you in Scotland
the day you won them the war from Normands
when you snatched their armies
from the stingy hand of sleep
after you have sucked an ignorant Normand
fool of the presence of flower of the sun.
Your generosity has filled the jungle
as you feed butterflies from your nectar,
you sustain the goldfinches
and you give out your flowers to hummingbirds
What a great one you are!”
Having gained the knowledge and admired the description of thistles, I managed to return the book with my dim eyes before I fell for sleep.
© Rasheed Ibraheem Akande
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