By Onyekachi Iloh
Sorry, I was in the shower.
Sorry, my phone died.
Sorry, I was doing the laundry.
Sorry, I was at the North Pole.
Penguins were sliding on the ice all around us.
Sorry, old grief was at my door again,
rapping at it with the urgency of someone who needs bathroom.
Sorry, the emperor threw us into the arena
and we had nothing against the lions save the softness of our palms.
Sorry, Superman hurled my house at an alien barrelling in from outer space.
I am writing this from where the mantelpiece used to be.
No roof, no ceiling, nothing, just the stars spinning above us.
These dizzying dandies of the sky, sorry I got drunk
on the light spilling from between their thighs.
Sorry, my grandfather’s ghost sent a text saying:
hey boy, you need some space, don’t you?
My grandfather never spoke English while alive,
now I’m preoccupied with why he should in the hereafter.
Language has always been a concept too complex to fully cognize.
So sorry I chase after things too far gone into the past to find.
Sorry, I did not sleep all night. I was looking for a t-shirt from primary two.
I did not find it, but I’m sorry about what I found:
A hole through which the happiness we had
crawled away into the thick sludge of night;
two songs in which a fisherman asks the sea how many sunsets it holds;
The three birds from Olongo, one white, one black,
a third the color of which the song did not say.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swinging bridles
and singing to hoofprints in the sand:
they were good boys, they were such good boys, theyweresuchgoodboys
The five stages of grief, all topless beneath the bed,
each singing a different version of Purple Rain.
Sorry, Superman returned my house but it’s been hell making things right.
The puppy has been scurrying after his ball all over the ceiling.
Sorry, we’re trying to force all the dead people back into the picture frames.
Sorry, my Uncle Amanze refuses to believe he is dead.
Sorry, he’s pouring himself tea. Sorry, he’s asking if we won the war.
Sorry, he threw the journal you bought me into the fireplace.
Sorry, all the cockroaches are asking if I’ve seen Kafka:
Small, wiry fellow. Has his own weather. We want him to turn us into men.
So sorry, this poem will cost you an arm and a leg.
How would you pick up the phone?
How would you outrun the remorseless machinery of heartbreak
cantering towards you and mowing down with unconcern
everything we once called tender?
Sorry for any inconveniences caused, but this poem will cost you a heart.
Kindly drop the spongy thumping blood-covered thing here, please.
So sorry, beloved, a lot has been happening lately.
Onyekachi Iloh is a writer, poet and visual artist exploring photography as a means of documentation, and the re-examination of sight. He is a winner of the Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize and The Quarterly West Prize in Poetry. He has also been a finalist for the Frontier Award for New Poets. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barren Magazine, Off The Coast, Welter, Singapore Unbound, Quarterly West, Palette Poetry and elsewhere. When he isn’t playing pretend-guitar or dancing before mirrors, he reads poetry or mourns his country.