Better Version 2019 by Ayesha Feisal
A Country Drowsy
When heaven is boring, & the angels’ mouths are heavy saying “Hosanna,”
God holds a remote control, flipping through what’s new,
then tunes it to a station called “Nigeria.”
This country is a show of skilled murderers; this country is a melting pot.
The father who never comes back home,
the mother who never sees her son again,
the neighbour who returns but doesn’t smile anymore
a hundred homes wrecked & thousands of memories shattered.
I speak of tragedies — the ones that come in colours
of bullets begging to swim in a black boy’s body
a body learning the language of peace & the language of war
just because the unknown sends war to knock on your door.
Oceans unchanging, swallowing the whole boat.
We are all left in the void, to drown.
Oladosu Michael Emerald is an art editor for surging tide magazine, a poet, and a digital/musical/visual artist. His works have appeared or forthcoming in Paper lantern lit, the maul magazine, feral, native skin, zoetic press, penumbric, and elsewhere. He tweets at @garricologist.
after Abu Bakr Sadiq
summer drapes juniper-purple sunsets with hypnotic stripes of gold latched to the bottomless sweep of sky. so much has happened around here. now it’s too late to smuggle my people’s dead
bodies from the chokehold of death and bestow them a spare life. after a quiet walk through a deserted neighborhood we turned a corner, on our right was a dead land with the crumbled
charred remains of a tiny village. tuft of blackened roofless walls sprouting here and there like scattered toys among the rocks. beyond the bullet-scarred walls was a vast span of sky swathed
in smothers of red and purple, heaven-kissing mountains like jagged teeth and a relic of what would have been a pomegranate tree — we’d climb it, straddle at its branches, our naked feet
dangling, draped sunlight flickering through the leaves and casting on our faces, a mosaic of light and shadows. somewhere over those mountains slept the city that might as well be in
another galaxy to people sleeping on the opposite ends of history where nothing grows but death. somewhere over there a man from my dreams had died a needless death. ummi tells me that the
silhouette fastened to a leafless branch of the wilted lifeless tree, the dried bloodstain I had seen strewn across the bullet-scarred walls came from the bodies i had run kites with over these
lands. by which she means, the lives of my friends had drifted from them like windblown kites we’d chased. by which she means, she might be dead before nightfall and the boredom of the day
will be broken. i confess, i am a lone body sliding down a steep cliff, clutching at shrubs and tangles of branches and coming up empty-handed. homecoming was like bumping into an old,
forgotten friend and seeing that life hasn’t been so kind to him. i scroll through my Twitter feed & my people are being killed again, on the news on tv my people tried cascading themselves into
God’s hands but the bullets outpaced them. tell me, how pious does one have to be to avoid having one’s prayers bitten by bullets? perhaps if it’d been otherwise, the trees would still be
here, blooming. and not wilting as they bloom. and the houses too, breathing and bubbling with laughter. maybe I won’t be here in this city where every/body is an hourglass sinking into graves.
i wish i didn’t have to empty every bit of their deaths into poems and bury them between every line, rhythm and metre. this is to say i have become an author of grief
a trio of crows exchange a few caws
in the distance — underneath the bony glow of a half-moon in a starless night seeking new ways to spread itself above land — the muezzin calls for Maghrib
Mahbubat Kanyinsola Salahudeen is a writer, poet, spoken word artist, and human rights activist who resides in South Western Nigeria.
Untitled by Jimoh Buraimoh
A Brief History of a Miracle
Every girl begins with a name. Backwards.
Every name begins with a body.
Once, I stole myself before I could be stolen.
Because something is always stealing someone
or is it the other way round?
Everything with a body begins with a miracle.
A body is only the marriage of miracles.
The evidence is I am ten times fluent
in a language different from mine;
I dilute my country into a loose cartography
but I don’t know how to grieve a country.
Because it’s only a redundant exercise.
I study names and things I never learn to use in context.
I regain my history after centuries of losing it,
& then I am two inches away from losing it again.
I misplace my tongue. Find it after pretending to be ablaze.
Pretend to be something until you are that thing.
The same goes for miracles. history or not,
there is always a gun, & we’re always in its mouth.
I do not know how to be small.
I don’t believe in playing safe. I dub my country’s anthem
for the seventh time and keep myself busy, rechristening the words
into tender ones. As though that is a sure way to occupy spaces
bigger than my geography.
Oluwafisayo Akinfolami is a final year student of history and international studies. She is a Pushcart nominee. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Blue Marble Review, San Pedro River Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Undivided Magazine, and elsewhere.
Let The Moment Pass Through Me in A Wormhole Where I’m Quickly Alive
A cyborg cracks in the lavender sky
& I’m quickly alive
in a wormhole.
Everything golden, enough
to nourish the delicate
regime of the spell,
wrinkles into my borrowed
time, which is never
enough to canopy my several
bones hammered into
A bat announces a seven
decades old night here,
a cock calls a
morning so young there. I peer
directly into the
& all I see are
signals of my present sunbeams
knotting knuckles with
the vacant cloud
of the future. The smack
from the intersection
sounds as tender as a first kiss.
I drop my ancient molars
into an early mouth of
the moment, the tongue
unfurls wide enough
to spill the beauty, until there’s
no space left uncalled,
until every moment
passes through me, the waft
of time, as wet & clingy
as a newborn
& I am young,
& it is worthy
& a special kind of wonder.
Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan (he/him/his) is a speculative writer of Izzi, Abakaliki ancestry. He has works published or forthcoming at Ink Sweat & Tears, Augur Mag, Sand Journal, Mudroom Mag, Bracken Mag, The Fourth River, and elsewhere. He tweets @wordpottersull1.
Potpourri of Spooky Memories
i am here again in between this nightmare —
an oddball, a hermit in the colony of darkness.
a summer ago, i was caught in the bad shape
of bad memories when i read what a saint
would call a profane poem — writings
marked on a virgin origami with bat claws.
confession: i have lived most of my life impaled
by a hot rod of anguish. God, douse this body
with enough water to kayak through the firestorms ahead.
this body — sinking light. ghost ridden. wrinkled rose.
petrichor — the smell carries the last scent of my mother.
mother, a sad memory trapped in the haven of my brain.
& sometimes i am a tidal wave slapping against every rack
of a joyful boat until there’s a wreck, a drowning.
other times i am the last grains in the barn which every mouth
drools after. which means there are a lot of wild movies
yet to be staged by this boy, a theatre of eccentricities.
i keep filling up a basket in my sleep with wilted bones,
wresting from Death something that longs for my head.
plot twist: i am here again in the masjid reducing my knees
into fervent prayers. God, rain upon me droplets of grace.
i want to be soft as daffodils, as glorious as the moon.
Eniola Abdulroqeeb Arówólò (he/him/his) is a Nigerian emerging writer and an undergrad in Mass Communication. He is passionate about inequality, politics, domestic violence, and child rights. His works have appeared in Brittle Paper, Rigorous Magazine, and many other journals.
i still do not know
how to face the home
that has no father,
a missing brother
amidst the staccato of the
midnight bombs. sometimes,
my ears flap, and eyes search
for a place where a stranger
would give me a note, razoring
how, like refugees, our neighbors
ran away from their homes,
ignoring the antonym of
white water in their bodies
that coloured the sand
they crawled after swallowing
the hard balls that
became the daily bolus
they hid in their bodies, red.
& now, just call me a boy
that always trails to
the cataclysmic hole,
learning new ways to console
the mothers grappling with
grief, leaning their heads
against the graves of their
Salim Yakubu Akko, 19, is the 1st runner-up, poetry, of the 2022 Bill Ward Prize for Emerging Writers. Has been featured on Brittle Paper, Poemify, Aayo, Kalahari, World Voices, and elsewhere. Akko is a member of GJWA, CCGSU, and HCAF.
A Reality Show with A Difference
She lived in a corroded cruel country
where she was so cross and bored
with herself and everyone else
that she could pelt an official
with her barrage of saliva
if she happened on one
canvassing for her vote!
She envied carefree countries
where MPs were in the habit
of mistaking their august house
for a complete and crazy circus,
where entertainment was served up
in the form of wild kicks and punches,
something she called one of her favorite
reality shows in the entire world,
and all in the revered name of democracy!
Ndaba Sibanda’s poems have been widely anthologised. He is the author of The Gushungo Way, Sleeping Rivers, Love O’clock, The Dead Must Be Sobbing, Football of Fools, Cutting-edge Cache: Unsympathetic Untruth, Of the Saliva and the Tongue, and Poetry Pharmacy.
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