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
You are always on their lips
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