Black Voices at UBC: Poetry and Prose by Mikky Atsér

Mikky Atsér is a second-year PhD student in the Johnson lab who spends his time doing research and writing. Atsér is passionate about the role of stories in the authentic visualization of Africans and works through his writing to explore the nuances of the African condition.

On the horizon

Our eyes were useless,

open or closed, it didn’t make a difference.

Enveloped in a darkness so thick,

our tongues were bitter.

We trudged along,

stumbling over stumps and

bumping into each other.

The night was endless,

so it seemed.

We cried out to the heavens,

“Deliver us from this cruelty.”

Heaven responded.

Clouds began to form,

thunder clapped, lightning struck.

The darkness was gone,

but only for a time.

It returned with a great vengeance,

the cold rain.

Despised by the elements,

we realized that our only means of survival

was each other.

With arms locked together,

we trekked the mean-spirited road.

Stumbling less, bumping less,

we trudged along with renewed hope.

The hope that the night wasn’t going to last forever

The hope that the sun was just on the horizon.

Together, we trudged along.


It was an unusually cold September morning. The harmattan season wasn’t due for three months yet the winds blew with great voracity. From the window of the bus, Délé could see plastic bags and sheets of paper dancing non-rhythmically without cause for embarrassment.

As he sat on the bus with his bag on his lap and his arms wrapped tightly around his bag, he remembered the dramatic scene that had played out before he left home. Mummy had given permission to her tear glands to flood her cheeks. His three sisters did the same. Daddy was not so permissive. It seemed like he had declared an executive order to his senses that they show no emotion whatsoever.

But as all laws are broken, his tear gland rebelled, sending a single tear sliding down his left cheek. He should have known better.

Délé dug through his bag and pulled out his letter of offer from this big company in the big city. The words “Manager” and “Congratulations” jumped at him.

He was in disbelief for two reasons: First, he was yet to come to terms with the fact that a small town kid like him with just a secondary school certificate was going to be managing a big company.

Second, that a couple of words on some low-quality paper was the catalyst to his life-changing decision. To him, those words had provided him with comfort, an armour with which he was going to conquer the World.

Indeed, his heart bled that his decision had caused so much hurt to his family, and he was aware that he was sailing into the unknown. However, those words on that neatly folded (albeit low-quality) paper was the soothing balm to his distressed heart. To him, they meant he’d be alright.


Délé’s first day on the job was uneventful. At the reception office, there weren’t enough seats. So, he stood. And in standing, he remained for hours that seemed to last an eternity. He didn’t mind it though. He was simply elated to be there.

Eventually, he was brought in to see HR. In the congested office, there were boxes stacked up against the wall. Boxes, he imagined, that must have been there since the beginning of time, because of the stench that came from them. HR informed him that there was a mistake with his employment offer. He hadn’t been hired as a Manager but rather as a Clerk.

For a moment, Délé’s world stood still. He could feel his heart racing faster than an Olympic runner. Beads of sweat began assembling on his forehead. He wished to stay calm but his body was betraying him.

“We offer a path to career advancement. In a short amount of time, you can move up the ladder and become a manager,” said HR. Again, words seemed to provide him some comfort. And indeed for a time, they did. Two years later, he was still down the hall in the clerk’s office. He did everything he thought he could to climb up this proverbial ladder — but like a pendulum, every time he swung in the direction of progress, he would swing back in the opposite direction.

Now, it was going on five years and he was still down the hall in the clerk’s office. He was team leader, though. Not where he wanted to be, but a mirage of progress. So he remained.


Délé met Amaka six months after he moved to the big city. She was dark-skinned, curvy and tall. She seemed to constantly wear a smile that shone brighter than the sun. She exuded confidence when she walked. Real confidence, not weakness masked by aggression. What captivated Délé when he first met her was her intense focus. Amaka didn’t move around with the aimlessness that clung to people’s feet. Délé was sweet, thoughtful and had a good heart. That was all he had going for him, but that was enough for her.

They fell in love as soon as they met. He was introverted, she was extroverted. He was short, she was tall. She was dark-skinned, he was light-skinned. He was Yoruba, she was Ibo. They were a beautiful mash of differences ordained to be together by the divine. Or so they thought.

Two years after they’d been together, Amaka ran into Éméka, an old classmate who also happened to be her ex-boyfriend. Éméka had a manner about him, like he was born to rule the world — and rule the world he did. He was dark-skinned, tall, built like a Greek god, If said god was blessed with Melanin. He was confident, focused and suave. He mirrored Amaka. He was everything that Délé wasn’t.

Initially, Amaka started hanging out with Éméka just to catch up on old times. But like a lit match brought near gasoline, a fire was ignited that she couldn’t put out and most importantly, wasn’t sure she wanted put out. She was cheating on Délé and he knew it. She knew that he knew but they never spoke of it. It was the proverbial 800-pound elephant in the room that wasn’t worth acknowledging. He wasn’t happy with the situation, but it was better than being alone. So, he remained.


He remained. He was unhappy, yet he remained. He had become comfortable with his discomfort and it became his new normal. He had made some progress, however fleeting, but it was something. Indeed, this false sense of progress had blinded him. He feared that moving on was an admittance of failure that he couldn’t accept. Moving on was to mean that he was going from ‘something’ to ‘nothing,’ going back to square one, as Nigerians would say. And that thought was frightening enough that he remained. He settled!

Black Voices at UBC is an open-form column publishing work by Black writers in UBC’s student community. If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to