The Crucible

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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

BIO:
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.