By Ajani Samuel Victor
Everything is music. The saunter of dried leaves
in a bereaved city. The crackle of creaks
in a deserted home. The prana of my mother on the physician’s mat.
I wish to psalm my life into a vintage
of amen and hosannas,
to twirl my tongue and
fashion a nectar of lyrics,
toot a trumpet and not clog its pores
with tears. But no matter how you toss it,
grief will always be a tongue in the mouth
of a motherless child.
In this poem, winter mocks the nakedness of an orphan.
I rise every morning like the glory of manhood
with a whisper in God’s ears;
that I am a grain of sand sprinkled in an ocean.
A prodigal pebble in a quarry.
A missing page
in the chronicles of existence.
This is no tale, the closer I was to joy
was the eve of mother’s malady.
Tell me, what ritual exfoliates the misery
of a hopeless man?
What music revives the bones of a dying boy?
Ajani Samuel Victor, Frontier II, is a black writer from the trenches. His work has appeared/forthcoming on Blue marble Review, TST Review, Roughcut Press, Augment Review, and elsewhere. He was the winner of 2021 Prisoner of Love Poetry Contest.
In response to Billy Collins’ ‘The First Night’
By Chisom Okafor
I am holding unto the past like a monochrome photograph
to my chest, listening to your heart
beat against mine in this untouched dark
You say something about the past
not holding water anymore,
a forecast of hands, yours,
held against the darkness.
Let them go, you say.
The secret to understanding Einstein’s thoughts on relativity
is not far away from us, you say.
There is an orchard of hearts where ours orbit each other,
against the giant star of death,
and are helmed in by a curvature in space-time,
never falling completely into it,
but never drifting away, too
in an ever-evolving ring of grief.
You read me Jiménez in the fading light,
straining with each stroke of dusk, to catch the printed words
above an insurgency of cataracts, already overtaking
the city of your eyes.
The hardest thing about death,
must be the first night,
And Billy Collins:
you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set.
In a parallel universe, when we have tired the sun
with our talking,
and having sent her down the sky,
I see you walk to the gramophone
to play my favorite record —
a gift of dirges from a father to his departing son.
You invite me to a dance,
but my limbs, cachetic tonight, collapse just before
our rhythmic ritual begins.
Chisom Okafor, Nigerian poet, editor and clinical nutritionist, has received nominations for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize and twice for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, the Gerald Kraak Prize, the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Account, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, A Long House, Salt Hill Journal, Isele Magazine, FIYAH, North Dakota Review and elsewhere He has also received support from the Commonwealth Foundation and presently works as chapbook editor for Libretto Magazine. He tweets @chisomokafor16.
Saturdays in Port Harcourt
By Tope A Larayetan
K’ene onye keni ye n’uwa
is how the weekend calls us in —
how the neighbors tell us
Mommy would show up cradling
brooms, packers, and mops.
Her fingers buried in a plastic bowl
of water waiting to wreak
droplets on our exposed skin.
is how Port Harcourt awakes
from slumber: bright buckets climb
on top of townspeople’s heads
as they flow toward a borehole,
eager for the latest gists: couples’
fights that evaporated through walls,
thieves that were finally caught.
Kunie na ibu dike
is how beans become paste between
the jaws of grinding machines
become balls of akara in scalding oil
slow motion gargles of cooking pap
to the shuffle of exhausted feet
packing the last of the dirt, managing
what is left of the weekend.
Tope A Larayetan is a Nigerian poet and writer. She is the 2023 winner of Old Dominion University’s Graduate College Poetry Prize sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Society of Virginia. Her works have appeared in Agbowo, The Shallow Tales Review, Kalahari Review, and the maiden edition of the International Sisi Eko anthology. She serves as the Poetry Editor of Barely South Review.
By Ajibola Tolase
In the doctor’s office where
my symptoms dissipate at the news
of negative test results. I’m looking
at my tongue, colored orange
by Fanta in the mirror. Since
it seemed I will live I shift
my focus to things dying in me—
English words I learned
in a different country when
I was five. Orange, I learned
was a citrus before it’s a color
that describes a fruit no one
calls pawpaw anymore. The
last time I heard sealion,
I thought I was special because
I dreamt of stars so low I could
touch them. I think of phrases
like backslide which I took
for the doom of moral failure
but could be a variant of
the moonwalk which is lost
in an era. I have walked out
of places only to find new
ways back, to learn words
to mean astonishing lack
of success as I am learning
new symptoms that could
take me back to the doctor’s office.
Ajibola Tolase is a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. . His writing has been supported by the Elizabeth George Foundation, and has appeared in LitHub, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.
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