Musa Abduljalal Aliyu

 My brother, held tight to his 

belief like a limpet holding onto algae, 

chewing it off a hard rock. So when 

he joined Boko Haram, we only saw it 

on the leaf he left us that read: I have 

left to strive in the path of my Lord. Ya 

Ilahi, I agree, belief eats at

a man’s reasoning like death feeds on 

our days. For how else do you explain 


a man’s hijra from his family to a people 

who find comfort in killing? On the news, 

a few weeks later, it was reported that 

Boko Haram ransacked a village & 

reunited scores of women & children 


with their Rabb. Father, seated opposite 

me, walked his eyes from my face to 

my hands—that were on my lap, shaking—

& said: familyisn’t all about blood, it’s 

the question of the heart. If your brother 

truly loved you or me, he’d not have 

left. Months


later, after ishā, brother walked into my 

room, smiling, it was as though a

ray from an early morning sun fell on his 

face. Won’t you offer me shayi, akhi? 

He asked. As I opened my mouth to 

reply him, father fell into the room, like 

he was flung by a typhoon. Good evening, 

Baba, brother said. Perhaps, you 

should leave, I said. 


Father returned with the police. & after 

they handcuffed my brother, he stared 

into father’s eyes & said: you’d regret 

this. Time had made me dig a grave in 

the heart of my heart & buried the 

remains of my brother.


Fifteen men broke into our house at 

midnight—I could still see their 

faces even when I closed my eyes, 

one of them hit father’s head 

with the butt plate of a rifle. 

& my brother brought out a pistol & 

entombed five bullets in our father’s 

chest. When the thoughts of this chaos

threatened to explode my mind, I went


to the cemetery our mother was buried, 

stood by her grave & said: Mama, Mama, 

you told me my brother was an inferno 

& father was a large body of water & I, I… 

what did you even say?—I was the

boundary stopping them from swallowing

each other. Mama, you have to wake

up & teach me how to process all this



Abduljalal Musa Aliyu is a school teacher and poet. He writes from Zaria, Nigeria. His work appears in Chestnut Review, Brittle Paper, Ninshar Arts, 3 of Cups anthology and elsewhere. His piece won the third prize for PIN’s 2020 Poetically Written Prose Contest. He is the third prize winner of the inaugural Writing Ukraine Prize. He rants on Twitter @AbduljalaalMusaZ