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after Chiwenite Onyekwelu

 

—the Nigeria Civil War 1967–1970

 

The land’s white beards are a sheath

   of fibrous memories.

Sand dunes absorbing & reabsorbing

   ice eyes water in the

cytoplasm of their cells. Everything

   thrown into the sea

enters with the tendency to be pure

   or indifferent.

In one plot of the story, a boy slipped

   into the bullet hole,

a cartilage unossified. The temperature

   of the soil was Arctic–cold.

Which implied how much blood it had

   soaked up into its nucleus.

The atmosphere was moist with the

   frosty eyes of widows.

At the end of every tunnel, there was an

   epithelium of silence that

deluged the larynx. There were men at

   the village square

sharpening their machetes. These men like

   ribosomes in the scabbard

of their maker, flawed in faith. But, one man

   out of every hundred

Igbo men says, the flood didn’t come to

   flaw the ship. But, to float it.

& in those mud houses, thatched roofed,

   the women are eloquent

in their wailings like a chorale of sunbirds

   exalting the break of dawn.

This kid, at five, his limbs, mitochondrial,

   floats in a pool of blood

as oil in water. A boy five years older is

   handed a gun & asked

to aim at the birds, until what is left of his

   eyes is red & unforgiveness.

In this land, non–membranous, what

   doesn’t kill you has

killed your father in another poem. Onitsha,

   1967, every boy like

a watermelon was green on the outside, red

   on the inside—full of springs

& seeds. A year after, & half the watermelons

   were carved crescent–shaped

& lowered into the red of the earth. There’s

   a metaphor that everything

plucked out of a garden is a flower or fruit.

   & in this land nucleated

with a DNA sequence of bullets & blood,

   every fruit becomes a flower

& not the other way round. But, one out of

   a thousand babies

blossomed with a plethora of congenital scars —

   starvation clung onto his

umbilical cord, bloodstains in the white of his

   eyes, his mother’s lullaby—

an alluring rhythm of gunshots in his hearing.

   Fear unfolding on his

epidermis like goosebumps in the harmattan,

   & him in the middle

of the fire charring & charring. Yet, his body,

   more skin than soot.

 

 

[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Gillian Daniels during our annual Kickstarter.]



Gospel Chinedu is a Nigerian poet from the Igbo descent. He currently is an undergraduate at the College of Health Sciences, Okofia, where he studies Anatomy. He loves music and is a big fan of Isak Danielson. His poems are mostly speculative and have appeared in several publications. Gospel tweets @gonspoetry.
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20 May 2024

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