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My mother’s stomach was full of squabbling stars,
given to her at birth before the sky became so bright
that the clouds decided to snare and imprison the sun;
sometimes I wanted to crawl back into her stomach
to count the number of siblings I should have had,
the number shoving her body along the path of a dream,
the number keeping her awake, a body of water,
making it impossible for her to close her eyes.
I have always believed that my mother was a river,
and I would never know her source, nor her tributaries,
nor the kind of wave that moved her, her favourite tide,
the type that flowed with her beyond its shores,
through white beaches gleaming in snow and sun.
A thousand years ago, come to think of it,
my mother would have been a mountain or a hill.
because our folklore has it that all mountains
had an accident with a volcano, an earthquake;
they dug holes into them and filled them with water.
every mountain became a body of water, a river
flowing from edge to edge, from point to point,
from generation to generation, I would never know
how big my mother’s body was, nor how many stars
concealed in her expansive stomach, in her waves.
I would have loved to watch her grow, to gaze at her bloom
as though she were a blossoming flower, a rose, a lily,
or a bougainvillaea fresh from a bud, its tip sneaking out,
its tongue coughing, sneezing, tasting the soft air,
learning with this deliberate, conscious slowness
how to master the restless stars growing within her.
What wonder was she before the stars filled her?
She collected things like anger, fire, hate, envy, illicit sex,
impatience, emptiness, broken jars of love, and nothing more,
except for a pair of photos from yesterday's love affair.
Labour set in, and she was up for an afterlife of a body
struggling to understand the river passing through her heart,
ignoring the stars digging a tunnel inside her stomach.
Grace was unsettling her for a shock.

Jonathan Chibuike Ukah lives in the UK with his family. His poems have been featured and will soon be featured in Ariel Chart, Boomer Literary Magazine, Compass Rose Literary Magazine, Discretionary Love Magazine, Ephemeral Literary Review, The Pierian, and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest 2022.
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24 Jun 2024

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