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Deathly Chimes: Three Poems by Naza Amaeze Okoli

(For Chinedum Okwuosa)

Do we die breathless,
As the afternoon rain:
Running against the sun,
Gasping, and then crashing– suddenly?

Do we dream of a journey,
And then stop, to not continue?

Do we, knowing, ride out?
Or, walking, halt at a café, to drink,
And then die?

Or, waking up, think how many daybreaks we’ll see
Before the last?

Do we measure death in kilograms?
Or, when we bathe, let go of our lives
Drop by drop
Until we die?

Do we die without our lives?
Or do we, nudged by the sound of humanity’s weakness,
Arise intermittently
Until we die?

Does death kill us?

Do we pass on like the choral –
Singing harmony

Does desire outlive us?

Do we hang our Distinctions on the walls of death?
Or do we, dying high, rise above death
And then die?

Or not die?


The Journey

I have come to stir the fire
On which rests our covenant
Your hair glisters,
The orange glow of the sun
Whispers low tunes over its rough edges

We are the envy of the wilted universe
I – a child of nature
You – the perfection of creation

I come
To crouch beneath the fence I cannot scale
To let our souls simmer…
To keep warm
I come to make fire

I pledge my weakness
I proclaim you my destiny
I will love you in pain
You were far away
When I looked up but did not find the stars:

I saw expanse
I spelled my name across the sky
Until my eyes closed

You were a-way
The day I went home

When I fell on pebbled shadows

You were silent
When I sang the last requiem
When the April storm
Sweeping through the long thorns of time
Crashed upon my head



I felt, in the calm flutter of our eyes,
Night stories
I watched our arms
Rise and fall
I saw our fingers
Leave black prints
On the black walls
Of the moonless night

I heard echoes of pained laughter
And I laughed
When her voice pronounced my name
I saw black patterns
Recede in the blight of the impending rain
I listened to elderly tales
Of close-by wars
In faraway lands

I heard the second rumble
And I felt the drops
Lap against the crown of my soul

Water of black
It ran in the line of parted passion
Ribbed across
Birthed by night whispers

Middle of black
Feather of black
Love of black
River of black
It swam in the heart of black quaintness
Red patches of white
Conceal the midway of unspoken wishes
It stirred in the strength of wooden tenderness
Gathered to make fire
It rose in the music of a voice, unhurried

Melody of black
Dance of black
Dance steps beat the rain to a halt

Poetry: Naza Amaeze Okoli

Naza Amaeze Okoli
Naza Amaeze Okoli
Naza Amaeze Okoli, PhD, is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Eastern Kentucky University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Mississippi in 2022, and was most recently a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Literature, Media and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is co-editor of Footmarks: Poems on One Hundred Years of Nigeria’s Nationhood. Twitter/X: @nazaokoli


  1. Dear Naza you have the style, your poems have a great taste, you know exactly what the soul of the reader if looking for. I am delighted!!

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