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Postpartum Depression in Men

1ST RUNNER-UP – POETRY JOURNAL PRIZE 2024

When you become a father for the first time,
The men in your family will call you a strong man
As if you pushed the child from your wife’s womb.

They will say the child borrowed your hard mouth, if it’s a male,
You will smile widely as neighbours enter the self-contain
In batches, to greet the child and mother

You will force and keep that smile on your face
When your mother-in-law’s eyes meet yours.

You know where her eyes are coming from;
They’re searching the small room
And boxed-in kitchen and bathroom

And there’s disgust buried
Somewhere along the creases on her face

She will not make any effort to push it
Under disproportionate layers of cosmetics.

You are spared by the presence of your neighbours,
She would have reminded you of how
She opposed your marriage to her daughter,

Because whenever you stick your hands in your pocket,
It never really sinks in
Like that of the Chief who first presented himself
As a suitor to her daughter,

You wonder when it became a crime to have shallow linen pockets
You will peel off your eyes and a thin coat of paint
From the edges of the room and drop them on the child.

You will become pensive, you will wish you had waited
Until you worked in an office
Like the big men in the estate opposite your street,

But you really couldn’t wait,
your family people were already preparing words
To call your wife a barren witch.

Absentmindedly, you will put your hand in your pocket
And touch crumpled naira notes –

Change from the crate of soda you bought earlier
You will wish there weren’t so many strange eyes in the room
To prevent you from crying
But you will recall
Your family people called you a strong man.

You will allow tears to pool around your eyes,
Your wife will look at you in hidden surprise,

She will ask you questions with her eyes,
You will look at the child and smile,
As if to say you’re overwhelmed by the blessing of safe delivery,
She knows you’re not as hard as your mouth,
You’re an emotional man.

But your mother-in-law will subtly click her tongue
Tomorrow, when your wife has gone to work,
You will put the child to sleep

And discreetly ask your next-door neighbour
How he managed when he had his first child in a
self-contain
He will furtively take glances around
Before telling you to see a therapist.

Shiloh Okparanma

Shiloh Okparanma is a writer and poet resident in Rivers State. He is a graduate of the University of Port Harcourt and founder of a literary community during his university days. He enjoys reading fictional novels with poetic profoundness (with his favourite being ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’). When he is not reading or writing, he is picking up arbitrary and curious knowledge.

PJ2024 Longlist
1. Blood Ties
2. Born Again
3. Entreaty
4. Good Mothers Stay Home, Good Fathers Pay
5. Pain Is A Place
6. Postpartum Depression in Men
7. Prayers
8. Premonition
9. The Hood
10. What Came Out as a Poem

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