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Sacral was the acre I stood upon

that Saturday afternoon in April

trying to make sense of the mortgage,

watching a black-crowned cock pass like an omen

while my neighbour played her Steinway in her room.

That year, inside the belly of the earth

was fermenting, all the small animals

of the earth were buried; as I turned over

the earth, I discovered the festered bones

under the yet unexploded sun; the earth,

perhaps she was undergoing her own kind

of catharsis, was plated with a thin crust

that crumbled at the tongue of my spade.

I had almost lost my faith in the ground.

I sowed the first maize seeds by midday,

each an inch deep from the surface; in two days,

on Monday, the first seedlings started sprouting.

They could all stand the heat, the evening water.

That year, the rains were late in their coming,

the villagers buried three young women

who were suspected to be witches:

each because they were living alone

and said to be the sole perpetrators

of the misfortunes in their families.

Each day, in my bedroom I listened

for the early arrival of blackbirds

because even a scarecrow wouldn’t do.

The frogs came in their tide in late July

but on its own, the heat wave took each one of them.

Most nights I woke with backaches and headaches

like the Steinway was still playing in my head.

In September the farm looked like an orchard,

things I had not grown springing out of the earth.

Weeds and crops, I gathered them alike—

who’d know what would emerge from the unintended?

After the harvest, we set the field alight,

huge rabbits making it to the forest,

looking like miniature panthers in their flight.



Okwudili Nebeolisa is a Nigerian writer whose poems have previously appeared in Threepenny Review, Fireside Magazine, and Strange Horizons, and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Cincinnati Review, Salamander Magazine, and Beloit Poetry Journal. His nonfiction has appeared in Catapult and Commonwealth Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @NebeolisaO.
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