From Nigeria, young poet Nnadi Samuel sends us two poems that versify a vernacular of violence and stoic grief with imagery that disturbs and words that reflect endurance and perseverance.
BETWEEN BOMBS AND PRAYERS
The last haraam Emeka and I committed
was surviving the bomb that chewed up my mother,
and vomited her out into the rickety bones
that housed my father.
Justice was still asleep
when I limped through his door
and forgot my brother behind its knob.
The ripple effect of yet another blast,
exhausted him into what squatted in front of me
before my weariness smeared
a nude fatigued smile on his cheekbones,
pretending it was just another of mother’s necklaces
that we had lost
pretending it was mere coincidence
that our both parents had become dust
strewn on sheets of flesh.
Before this moment,
nothing in my country
was worth investigating.
a grenade was detonated
in Emeka’s ribcage.
Embarrassed, I took a log from his spine
and glazed it off my fingernails.
How do I serve the court
his battered guts
as evidence in a tray
full of betrayal?
Even my silence now
wouldn’t convert him.
In my dreams,
I think my mother asked me
how I would love my justice.
But I just hiss,
before telling her
life isn’t fair around here.
And then to be handsomely rewarded
is to bleach one’s neck
with something more than prayers.
INTERVIEW FOR MY SICK MOTHER
AND A BOY CARVING NEW BODIES
My father interviews God in our one-room
I had to resign my own body
to see how nervous he was, sitting in a kaftan
with a crowd of my siblings spread unto the bare floor.
Before this moment,
he had wrestled with death
in places deprived of spectators,
places with no cheers
where victory seems another riddle
cracked on heaven’s cheekbones.
We are on Simpson’s street now
and the hyenas here do not laugh at us.
A migraine of clergymen walks past us,
rearing a girl’s myopic breath.
We bow and offer horse whips—
that we may find scars
on the serial number of her death wish.
My father interviews God about my sick mother,
she had held on for too long,
but cancer chewed up and rubbed her thirsty flesh
somewhere in the critical care unit.
Our calendars are grey and worn out,
with ticked dates to carry forth
the grudges of loved ones.
Do not envy my stature,
I do not register this grief on my biceps.
May my bones be dry enough
to make a bonfire when mother returns.
The tiny lobes beneath my ear
remain the only thing that breathes me into plastic arts.
This is where we model as sculptors,
carving out ways into a new body.