The Crucible

Dami Ajayi

By Dami Ajayi
(for Chebet)

We let the logistics of saying goodbye
overwhelm us, like young lovers.

We remain tentative
although we meant to be spontaneous.

With ethanol & laughter & the canopy of night
we feasted on music & our bodies,
whispers into ossicles tickle
when you contend with blooming Hi-Fis
when you have recused this affection.

In the melee of a night
between lover’s rock & rocksteady
you told me of your future
waiting in a small town in America,
then you pause, auditing my slow uptake,
I sigh & quash my cigarette in the crucible,
stay my gaze by watching hands & mouths,
the furtive journey of chewing khat,
familiar to this turn of phrase.

Nothing was promised:
neither the abject pain of departure,
nor the sting of cheap gin
slicking down throats.

The photophobia of hangovers persists
at the departure bay
& your frantic voice notes,
in lieu of a goodbye.

Previously published in Affection & Other Accidents

Dami Ajayi is a Nigerian writer and psychiatrist. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Daybreak & Other Poems (2013). His first volume of poems, Clinical Blues (Write House, 2014), was a finalist of the ANA Poetry Prize. It was also longlisted for the Melita Hume Prize and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. A Woman’s Body is a Country (Ouida Books, 2017), his second volume, was selected by Quartz Africa in 2017 as one of the best books of the year, and it was a finalist of the Glenna Luschei Prize. His poems have been translated into Yoruba, Portuguese and Italian.