top of page

African Poetry

How to Hold a Sun and a Smile Altogether


        remember that here in Nigeria / a sight of a new day is one of the

biggest testimonies / Our nation is an aggregate of sharp objects like

        knife / razor / scissors / bullets that cut through layers of lives everyday/”

        — Chidiebere Sullivan


We have learned from the radio how to hold a sun

in our palms & a smile altogether,

a cock sprouts underneath my skin with a tongue nailed to his jaw,

something is missing & you should not look for it

if you must find yourself.


There is a war going on in every breath I take,

every drink of water I sip is white blood from

a skull lying dead in the street,

I am hungry for what I have enough of,

how dare a boy eat what belongs to him

when he lives where they say he doesn’t belong?


A revolver points at the dream of a child,

the trigger is pulled, my brother opens

a window to the anthem of school children

which says my father hasn’t been to kindergarten,

something is missing & you should not say something if you must have your tongue.


My wound has grown older than me

and I don’t think it will heal someday,

you are a foreigner in a country your father

was a citizen of till death,

how does it cut across the heart of a boy

holding such history?

What portrait paints a girl whose civic right

is only to be a river that won’t run

no matter how she is raped, robbed of her belongings,

if not a broken feathered bird carrying a dark flag

spotted with tears and blood

wishing to fly around the world?

Philip Chijioke Abonyi is a writer, cosmetician, and student of Federal Polytecnic Oko, Anambra state, Nigeria. He was shortlisted for the Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize, 2018. His work has appeared in African writer's magazines, Eve, qwenu, spriNG, Praxis, Nantygreens, and elsewhere.

The Truth is a Jar of Snakes


The path to success is littered

with broken pieces of manhood

trampled on by fellow men’s heels

in a rush to catch sight of coins

as they rise to the top.


Man was never taught to stop

and share with his brother;

they breed him to smother

all others to reach his destiny.


These streets are covered in tears

of young men bleeding hopes

and dreams on this canvas of a nation

ruled by those foreign to starvation,

assisted by a capitalistic religion.

The words spoken in the pulpit

are no longer worth its sanctity.


Maybe it’s blasphemy that leads

to a heart that questions.

The truth is a jar of snakes.

Time and again we expect change.

Freedom is now the beautiful cage

constructed for pawns on a board,

placed to serve their master’s word.

As we keep sipping from our arrogance,

addicted to the taste of ignorance,

we slowly descend into ignominy.


Hospital beds are shared,

as if the patient is a poor man’s child

wrapped in the pangs of hunger,

invisible to hands of the puppeteer

as he crushes the dreams of his subjects

to the loud cheers of gullible masses.

Truth is naked,

but we remain blind to its nudity.

Ndiritu Mwangi is an aspiring poet born in the Kenyan highlands. Poetry has played a major role in helping him cope with different challenges through his life. His aim is to speak out on the issues affecting his society and the African continent in general.

Home Is a Woman

Before I enter the matatu

for the drive to Kampala then Lira

the driver stops me to tell me

he’s never seen me on this route

“you must live outside”

I remember I live outside my own country

I pretend not to hear

and he says it again, this time behind a cigarette and a smile

he asks me “who are your people? who is your father? your grandfather?” saying he may know my people

I tell him my mother’s name and her mother’s name

and my great-grandmothers’ names

I tell him about the names of the land they could not inherit

unless their brothers or fathers or husbands gave it to them

I name and map the land, from that tree to the edge of the river

I tell him where my great-grandmothers were born

where my grandmothers were born

where my mother was born

I hum the names of the women in my family

over and over again like a forgotten prayer

a forbidden song

he asks again “who are your forefathers, you girl?”

I ask him “and who gave birth to them?” and I say the names of the women who gave birth to them

our ride is silent from Kampala to Lira

he gives me a curious glance from the rearview mirror at my many faces looking at me while I hold on to my suitcase

while I carry all the women living inside of me

I carry them home


First published in The Southern Review.

Arao Ameny is a Maryland-based poet and writer from Lira, Lango region, Northern Uganda. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from University of Baltimore, MA in Journalism from Indiana University, and BA in Political Science from University of Indianapolis.


Better Version 2019 by Ayesha Feisal


This land we call world is now just mere word

Our fatherland is turning to scorpion


It’s turning to cobra swallowing the standing trees

What can we call it — wickedness or inhumanity?


Here we are in this wilderness pooling in depression

Here we are in this water dripping in sadness

Here we are on this planet weeping like widows

How can we describe it — fiction or nonfiction?


We’re now products of depression — agents of suicide

We’re now messengers of devils — sons of carelessness

We’re now agents of brutality — masters of wickedness

Will it remain tragic to the end

or will there be a change of the scenes?

Sulyman Abdulkabeer Agaka is an indigene of Ilorin, Kwara state, Nigeria, and an English student at Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto.


They carry you in their mouths

Like a chewing stick

Sometimes like gum

At other times, both

They chew you and spit you out

Pick you again, chew and spit

When you lie down

And when you rise

When you sit

And when you trudge the streets

In toil and harvest

From cradle to grave

Chewing and spitting

Chewing, spitting

Never ceasing

You are always on their lips

Like gloss

In their mouths like mint

Like a chewing stick

Their salvation from lip-cracking harmattan

Inoculation against bad breath

And they are ignorant

Iyke Obinna Igbokwe was educated at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria. His work has appeared in the Blueprint Newspaper in Nigeria and in December 2011, his poem “I Rise” won the KorlueNow Prize for poetry in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.


Untitled by Jimoh Buraimoh

bottom of page