(not so) Strong Black woman

Curiosity lingers at the office window…


If you see Fola walking down the street,

You might see her wrapped in a khaki suede coat,

Sleek at the waist, with a fitted belt and tassled handbag,

You might wonder if her hair is really hers, and how she gets each braid to look exactly like the other,

You might admire her burgundy lipstick and quiet militancy,

You might imagine the effort required to keep up with her quick, small feet.

As you burn your hand on the on the coffee machine and finally admit to yourself you’re a stalker,

You see her scan her card,

She’s in the building.


                                       fear of vulnerability                               

You might perceive her p̶o̶i̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶e̶x̶p̶r̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ as unshakable, too sturdy for your own frailty,

You sit in front of her and throw a nervous smile, like a small boy, with a small bouncy ball,

And hope she will catch it,                                                                                                                                     


She raises an eyebrow of c̶o̶n̶f̶u̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ and greets you politely,

But her thoughts are far away, and she carries a peculiar weight.

Second-generation Nigerian,

Oldest of four,

Anomalied her fate from Hackney with a first-degree from LSE,

Born and bred with a thick work ethic,

Parents, loudly Pentecostal,

Youngest sister, living in a hostel,

Had enough of mum and dad and chucked UCAS for a career in grime,


But is always strapped for cash.


Sickly relatives in need of remittances,

Closest friends now dispersed, from Toronto to St. Kitts.


She puts these concerns away in the top draw of her desk and gets on with work,

Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism.

She wants to be more silly in life, at work, but won’t let anyone take her for a mug,

‘Don’t over-do it’ she thinks,


She asks if you want a coffee,

You lift your full mug and politely decline,

You remember your seared hand,

You remember how stupid you really are and wonder if you have anything to offer.


But in the evening at home,

She longs for a friend,

And she, wrapped in her favourite blanket, is wrapped ready for bed by 9:30.

She’s wrapped her head in a satin scarf, an emblem of black girl-ism,

And wrapped in all too familiar familial troubles.


And you think of her as you sip your cider and try to enjoy a night with your mates, and try to be in the moment, but your thoughts are far away.


And she throws up a prayer and hopes her parents’ God will catch it,

Or, maybe by chance, it might just stick to the edge of his robe like Velcro,

Perhaps he might have a moment to think of her when he’s less occupied.



And she thinks of you, her w̶e̶i̶r̶d̶ work friend,

White boy from Wells,

And longs not to be so wrapped up anymore,

For warmth to come from friendship, perhaps something more,

Her heart is playful and soft as dough,

But will you be patient enough to see through?

Leeza Awojobi