Akpa Arinzechukwu "Three Poems"
I commend the cold for little miracles: the trees sandwiched in frost,
A dull night accosted by lonely lampposts. All this,
The man in a fur coat inherits. The trains hurtle & whistle their ways
Into eternity & forth. Undeterred, he stares further into every window
To see a man like himself, alone, cradling himself, occupying the same seat
Each time the coaches come rolling off the shelves of today’s snow. Their eyes
Pass knowing looks at each other, reminiscent of college boys at a pub,
Passing cigarettes, beers, laughs & fists. No one leaves till the bottles
Squeak & squeak & squeak & whistle their emptiness. & when the boys leave
Early in the morning, falling on each other, neither the cold nor their sorrows
Let them reach for the balloons in the sky, the faded little stars bursting slowly
Out of sight, out of memory, a broken language. Today I think about the man
At the train station who recognises every man who looks like his mistake.
I pop a can of beer for him because I have enough to distract me
From worrying about other people’s sorrows. & still I might have found
new ways to indulge my addiction, a dilapidated youthfulness.
I wonder, when they kill me, as they will, which of my picture would the media use?
Which part of my identities would they highlight the most?
This is your favourite joke: the footballer picking the ball
Turned into dusts trying to score against the sea.
It is really funny a man has to dribble himself to death to shine.
Funnier to see a man taking the ball from his opponent, running
Three-sixty the field, dribbling everyone to shame just to score
An own goal. I see now the smile on your face when the announcer
Too excited to announce the results blew up into a constellation – violets
Spewing into the seabed as the coral reef scan for what’s game &
What isn’t a nightmare. A jellyfish overtaking everyone else & tasting
The bounty burned.
Winter is here. I remember the steeps, covered in fogs. Too vast
For my recollection, too fragile for my attempts at running.
It is a fence. All the players are fenced in. I am not left out.
Neither are you with the hilarious hibiscus stuck in your dread while
Everyone else here holds up a sunflower invoking summer (which
Is too faraway a fantasy as standing in the mirror at night
Casting a spell to charm an ex into loving one back). In fact
This might be another way of killing time as you tired of wonder
Pluck your eyelashes, unaware of everyone listening to Lady Day sing
The blues. The fog thickens with the encapsulating voice. No one leaves.
An Invocation for a Survivor
As only the righteous will make it in this life
I have remained buried in my grandma’s garden –
an infant avocado struggling for sunshine where none is guaranteed.
Of course if you lived too close to the ground you’d inherit the dirt –
clandestine germs with a long history of violence. & a balding pate
for unmissed clouts. Not to erase the rattlesnake who hates the fern
the most unlike most bigger creatures who choose the sky as an abode
instead of soiling their legacies.
What I have learned about my body
is embarrassing: a man so desperate to change
the world should at least know how to put out little fires. Instead
I am in bed with a man not mine reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng,
not believing a creature as pretty as a rattlesnake could hurt anyone. Is it physics
or something about us for as soon as we start gravitating towards each other
a gallon of grief is punctured, sea waves running amok. Easier to understand baby
Cuckoo in the nest of a Reed warbler being fed well even after throwing every
other chick into the sea to get all the attention. The doctors think if I didn’t let go
of anger to love lovingly, forgiving my oppressors my heart might finally
knock itself over, so I am feeding somebody’s son who isn’t my man
the avocados he always craved even before I flowered, & we are talking
about all the possible ways Ng would have ended her novel. One of which
doesn’t include the earth opening to swallow what it detests. One of which
doesn’t include Elena vowing to look forever for a child abandoned to mere
trust in neighbours & strangers. Holy Father I am a stale cigarette smoking
from the wrong end of the stick. This is why I am attempting for paradise but I
keep reaching into the dirt grandma was buried. I hear her talk which is equivalent
to hearing the رُسُل speak of all the ways one could be saved & one of which doesn’t
include long hours in the bathroom sponging hard at my in-between thighs.
Àkpà Árinzèchukwu is an Igbo writer. Their work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review, Sou’wester, Adda, Fourteen Poems, Arc Poetry, Poetry Review, Clavmag, Malarkey Books, and elsewhere. Twitter: @akpaah