Young Nigerian poet Michael Akuchie presents two of his poems. “Interrogation With a Note About Identity” explores the inaccessibility that can be felt with the inability to speak one’s native language, rendering one an outsider. The poet is Igbo-Esan and produces these verses from that duality and the hybrid space that he inhabits in his quest for expression in both African languages. Akuchie adds that through his own experiences, he employs the poetic verse to show just how much he endures in the struggle to “belong” while also depicting the type of bias people like him face. “With So Much Silence” explores the theme of a domestic dispute and separation through a silence that speaks.
Interrogation with A Note About Identity
Why are you not fluent in Igbo?
The village men probe me, with eyes wide as a door to a new world, with whispers the size of a hurricane that no one dares trim. They search me for their missing son, brother or whatever title that spells kindred clearly.
Is it your father’s doing?
They wail in a way that draws more faces, a multiplicity of interest. I sway in the wind, press my eyes into the lens of the road. I observe the behavior of the road, capture a bus drunk with speed vanishing into the distance covered with trees and the hereafter.
Is he not proud of this place or does the air here sadden him greatly?
And they continue to probe further until they know that they now stare into a small, dull fire. A moment they will carry into their own lives and pass on until children long after me will sing Igbo and close the distance I could not navigate.
With So Much Silence
You see me without light in the room
because you never required it to have me disappear
under the wealth of your touches. Now desire
is a wind overwhelmed by a growing stillness.
We keep a profound silence in the open palm of our hearts
as our eyes fly back and forth, a subtle invasion that no one
challenges with a word.
A terrifying winter settles in our mouths and hearts.
Our agitations run freely, a river grown out from our stomachs,
the handprint of all our trouble.
You writhe to signify an ache, your brows crawl up
to almost touching the hairline and you name me that ache.
The worst part of pain
is not knowing which portion to sustain for healing.
Your eyes, when captured by the bravado in my own
are vacant and I suffer intimidation over filling them.
Everything here smells like ash, a future of how we might end.