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African Poetry

a short essay on the miseducation of love as a round peg in a round hole


how can love be worthy of its name if one selects solely the pretty things and leaves out the hardships?

—Shams Tebriz


we interrogate love until our moonlit tales become lovelores of beehives with a thousand cups of honey and zero sting; of flowers growing unplanted — as in tulips, làbẹlàbẹ, ojú oró & òṣíbàtà chiefing the dominion of a river; of water that gifts fishes & lacks the depth to drown fishers — call it a pond, a pool or lake. but of a truth, love is a neck-deep flood invading your house in a way that you pour yourself out in the stead of the flood. it is a temple where everything is laid bare. where you’ll have to kneel across rough & sharp stones to claim your lapel of love. so let every sip of wine remind you of romeo & juliet. let every presence of your lover remind you of the disappearance of shams from rumi. let every love you win remind you of layla & majnun: that you may become a gong — a mere rumour of affection. sometimes love makes you a hunt dragged into a fatigued hut of an ancient village, forgotten in the dark side of the world. & you may lack the grace to look back at the pounds of your flesh rotting on the road, stuck in the body of roadblocks. then you realize this hut is an empty room that echoes your aubade in a billion ways. a small cave strumming your serenade all over the starry morning.

Taofeek Ayeyemi (fondly called Aswagaawy) is a Nigerian lawyer and writer whose works have appeared in Lucent Dreaming, Ethel-zine, The Pangolin Review, hedgerow, the QuillS, ARTmosterrific, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and elsewhere. He has won honorable mention in poetry and haiku contests.

The Client Who Originated in Outer Space

she was on the verge of spewing out something

raw like shut the hell up, hence her heart was burning,

however, she had been taught that a client is always right

the potential buyer in the shop was like a creepy meteorite

the bookshop clerk’s look was a film of utter astonishment

but the lanky lady, the comet in the shop, was odd & insistent


I want a book that will soar and swing with me to its sky

one that captures, coaxes and coerces one’s mind’s eye

one whose pages will drive me to create unrest

with a yell like hell as I freeze & freefall into its crest

one that will daze me with its turns and chases

one whose words are warm & crazy cuddles

one so touching that tears will be a torrent

a book whose word choice is an absorbent 

a breeze that will brush away all my tears

and make me laugh out loud on its stairs

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.

Tears of a Dove

Salty tears run across

Her cheeks

Heavy guns are knocking on her head

Causing her tongue to salivate for

The aroma of peace

Her eyes are like green peas

Honouring dark hours

Peace is a sin to an AK-47

Ordinary broom sweeping gunpowder

Her soul is in a titanic struggle

Crying for pure drops of peace

The sound of her tears is sweet

Being roofed with the AK-47

She can hear the distinct

Thump, thump, thump

War is ugly, the white house has reported

We are banking peace for them; they are lending

Us war?

Peace is eaten,

Tears stand in her eyes

The AK-47 is attracted

But the feather of peace is shining

Pearson Lemani is a Malawian poet, short story writer, and critic. He writes about his experiences in life, culture, religion, and politics. He has been writing since he was 17 years old.

Night rain

Night falls in rain

As night becomes darker than usual

Minutes later it rains, bucketfuls, everywhere, and

The stars run too into their homes, for fear

Of lightning flashing with no control

Across the dark face of night


The thunders are at war, roaring and rolling,

This night, unsafe, of moonlight steps

The moon calls off its shine, we call off our dance

For the ground is slippery with mist and fear

The rain has taken the moonshine, taken our moonlaughters

Night has fallen in rain, fallen in pain.

Obinna Chilekezi is an insurance practitioner trained as a librarian and journalist. He has had a book published. His poems have been published in anthologies such as New Nigerian Voice and Young West African Poetry. He won the African Insurance Organisation Book Award in 2016.


Defender (For Jake)


is not an abstract concept:

legal theory, cozy fiction, slasher movie, paperback pulp.


It is a gang shooting

with a hot weapon

found without a warrant.

It is a weeping grandmother

and the testimony of toddlers.


It is a child with contusions,

struck with a blunt instrument,

a butterflied cadaver on a silent slab

in the formaldehyde morgue,

examined for evidence.


You ran for the goal

like we practiced in the front yard.

Do not stop

until the ball is in the back

of the net.


Striker, then roaming the midfield,

setting up the center

with that invisible left foot.

Now, defender.


The last line of defense.

The last voice to speak.

The last ally when the world has turned.

Play by the rules.

It could have been a fall.

No foul was called.


Innocent, unless

notified otherwise.



is bread-and-butter

or a meatball sub,

dripping with red sauce.


Hands messy.

Conscience clean.

Stuart Stromin is a South African-born writer and filmmaker, living in Los Angeles. He was educated at Rhodes University, South Africa, the Alliance Française de Paris, and UCLA, California. His work has appeared in Jalada Africa, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Dissident Voice, Rigorous, etc.


Oh! Brother

The white mouths laugh at our black skin,

 They cannot accept being our next of kin,

I have no problem with hate being their state of mind,

 Yet I have a problem when they claim to love my kind.


The world turns and turns, and I observe

 Just how they build, believing they deserve.

The blacks reject their granite and stones,

 We shall arise, even from dry bones.


They pilot the alien ship and we hang

 Traversing across Mississippi, we sing and bang,

The chains get loosed, we don’t post bail

 And the crowd drums loudly and they wail.


Oh! Brother, when the others let me down,

 Don’t turn away, don’t also make me frown.

Uche Chidozie Okorie is a Nigerian rapper, poet, playwright, and music producer. He studied English language in Caritas University, Enugu, Nigeria.


Untitled by Jimoh Buraimoh

Better Version 2019 by Ayesha Feisal

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