Sonnets for the Baby I Was Last Night
by Akpa Arinzechukwu
I cannot make whole a muddled body. I cannot make you walk/feel
through my eyes, nose, toes, guts & smile. If you picked up
the newspaper in the morning I wouldn’t guarantee a safe passage
to a country not yours; a love too foreign to find a home far from home.
If you wanted to feel something for once in your life
I wouldn’t guarantee the hand of a loved one pricking you
& picking the hairs on your chest while the oiseau breathes sonorous
Nostalgia into your veins. I wouldn’t guarantee you a safe passage
through the borders where border patrol guards are peoples hating
of everything you feel. I can make a car but never a horse. If I did
it’d be a dead horse & would never take stuff far. I do not guarantee you
a life after death but a life before death. On the beach two masculine lips
Entangle. The skylines are down & the dewy air passes almost unnoticed; barbecued muttons
getting washed, washed away, afar. Our love can only be the headline, not lived.
I fall in love with the wrong person & I don’t know yet.
I am mostly shy when I am facing death or when someone
I know is tired & dying. I have an enormous Afro cut.
My trousers stay flare as the drone whistles up above.
Ajah tells me he doesn’t trust anything in a white colour,
so we are mostly hiding in the day & our love starts almost
immediately. It glows in the dark. It oozes darkness, an echo-
chamber for black bodies in love. He says sometimes he wants
my lips in the day just to show God we could but we need to live longer.
At night I have sex for the first time with a different man & he smokes me.
He hides his sadness in my Afro. I bury my depression in his loin. & we
have an understanding that love-making doesn’t stop anything from happening.
Every man in history declared war straight from the bedroom. My Afro burns.
In the morning my new lover repents & says we are a bag of sin. Hallelujah, the drone drops.
after Kazim Ali
The family inside at the dinner table is no longer mine.
It’s been three years since I opened that door & lost a tooth.
Everyone ate silence; mum avoided looking at my lips –
Our hands on the cold glass minutes before thunder quivered.
I am in the news again for the wrong reason, convicted for aches, patched.
Someone says I am the lilac-breasted roller. I am aggressive when the wind
challenges the moon & the rain pursues the streets to the brink of an ocean.
My mum’s hand doesn’t freeze in the air when she learns everyone is talking
about my escape story. She walks into the kitchen & whip up peppery Jollof rice
& some avocados, sit out, & eat till she no longer hears what everyone is saying
about the maps & the cartographers of memories. After, my father walks backward
into the bedroom he was meant to share with my mum, he writes out my name, cancels
it, tears it out, crunches & forgets a curse in the trash can. He is looking through
the window & my mum is backing him & I am backing the world. Noah’s flood is here again.
Akpa Arinzechukwu is a Nigerian dealing with their numerous identities. Their work has been published by or featured in the 2017 Best New African Poets anthology, Saraba, Sou’wester, Transition, London Grip Poetry, Eastlit, ITCH, New Contrast, The Flash Fiction Press, The Rising Phoenix, Packingtown and elsewhere. They were a finalist for the Sophiamay Poetry Contest and longlisted for the Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction. They are the author of the poetry chapbook, CITY DWELLERS (Splash of Red).