Poetry

Samson’s Petals: Poems by Chijioke Umunnakwe

The Beached Whale

When my brother heard the news, he jumped off his balcony and lost his phone, his prayers and his religion. He washed his face and ran to my father’s fenced house. There were scratches on his arm and his left cheekbone was protruding.

That we should forever end our memorized routines

makes me grateful and silent, but silent especially.

I will translate Igbo to expatriates and put on a foreign accent.

Dad looked at you and stuffed all his thoughts

into his hat and put his hat over his head.

It was then we all remembered: You were fifteen and

said what you wanted to do was move to the sun.
Pitch tent there. Shelling and eating sunflower seeds.

Amongst other things, you wanted to be a beekeeper-

you wanted to be a trimmer of sycamore trees.

Way back. Young and foolish. We ran around clicking our tongues, making jest of the Khoesan and the dead. I was bored and without a thing to do and more than anything I wanted to visit you at your home in the sun.
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August 8, 1986

Lua, I’m chock full of sentiments and cramps, trying to etch the clamor of natives seeking nectar and resin, on the inner lining of your (lashless) eyelids. Lua, Alpha says you were born 1242 weeks and 3 days ago. The earth  held its breath then mumbled something incoherent and spit you out –

– there you were: safe & sound & sleeping- didn’t feel a thing when you leaped. Alpha says there was a waxing crescent moon in Ames, Iowa when you let out your first howl and set your existence in motion. All in all, there had been 14 hours and 10 minutes of daylight, he says.

In California, children swam in pools like blind fish amongst synthetic reeds and miniature castles. Just above equator, in Bauchi, I was in my mother’s womb three months shy and thinking of how not to come out while my allergies to alcohol and olives and marriage and God evolved.

Lua, day you were born, families went without food, told folklore round coal fires. 8:25pm., Des Moines 23 years back, sky turns orange, charred & cluttered; Owerri & women clothed in animal wool and dyed scarfs clap hands, whirl beneath half-clad moon. Lua, moment you were born,

there was an earthquake in Tepelmeme, navel of earth, birthplace of color & laughter (and housemaids). A fisherman (name: Obasi) gnashes teeth, dies. His wife still splits coconuts and hawks udara on Douglass Street, spills her draining courage on the sodden sidewalk. Lua, you were born: August came, you were born & the world carried on as always.
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Samson’s Petals

out of my cobweb hands pigments of joy peel;

out of my spindly knees, kernel, thistle, fronds:

How do I tell you that each time I see a face with scarecrow eyes and echoing lips I get down on knees and clasp hands together, pleading to be fucked? Like a fool I go about, barefoot, hopping on knees, asking strange men and women with perfect woes to fuck me.

I used to hear you murmur my name;

exhumation of letter fighting thread & hair.

I used to love to say used to. Now I have to convince you that I continue cosmic- that some part of me remains pure, or estimable at the very least. That I can stop laughing during funerals and weddings and at mass; that you can still corrupt the shit out of me

& as long as you stay with me

longer than an orgasm, I’m fine.
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– (c) Chijioke Umunnakwe

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