African Poetry

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Better Version 2019 by Ayesha Feisal

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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.

Homecoming

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

 

i paused

 

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.

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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

different points

             in spacetimes.

A bat announces a seven

 

     decades old night here,

             a cock calls a

morning so young there. I peer

     directly into the

buzzing blur

             & 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

of magic

             & 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.

Into Ashes

i still do not know

how to face the home

that has no father,

that mourns

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

innocent sons.

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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