My grandfather on a sandglass

They walked this path: two hands
holding sunlight. The thistles
glared at him yesterday.
How easily the days in the past laugh:
days wrapped in her straying strands;
days the rainbow bent to whisper
their names;
days of light.

***
The days before the blank stares
of IV cords & scurrying men &
their frequent whisperings in clusters.
Days by the still bed; days drained
by falling hairs; falling incense;
falling faith
—everything that falls wears a name in clay.

***
Now all he does is sit by the
old pond with a fresh void
& feed the rabbits & talk to
her about the dog’s appetite.
& in the frosty evening,
when he returns carrying the
heavy burdens of the woods,
in the blindness of the night,
I will see in his eyes the many
places her long walk has
stabbed him.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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Moon

Moon knows the secrets of
earth wind fire water metal
Moon never grows grey, like men.
Moon is a delivery man—
Moon is a pathway—
Whichever version of the metaphor you choose,
the other side of everything
walks round your room at night;
light shadows, resurrecting dead things.

Afterwards moon sits to hear the clock’s loneliness,
till dawn tunes in
& watches you
till dawn tunes in
& watches you.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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what the little girl meant to say when the long-haired journalist asked: where are you from?

anywhere
hope wears a crown of loss,
jesus wept is an exodus,
a silhouette poem finding the
square root of sound in deflection,

memory is a cheat code;

anywhere
bodies litter the streets like
decamped mango leaves—
compressed into a language
of bombs & guns,
anywhere
learning to dodge bombs is
an early education,
anywhere
children are named after ghosts;

anywhere
laughter is a dish
often served cold,
anywhere
the road ends in
a shark’s mouth,
anywhere
dreams walk
into nightmares;

anywhere
the world folds into
a blind spot

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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The man who wrote bad poetry

While walking by a cemetery one
cold-biting evening I saw an epitaph
on a tombstone that read: To the man
who wrote bad poetry—a life: unapologetic.

Because imagining was a price I
could afford, I stood there for
some time; the wind singing;
the cloud pregnant with threats.
I imagined in the cool evening,
when he was not in the kitchen
helping her to chop onions for
the yam sauce, he would sit by
the window—pen in hand; a smile
pillowed beneath his cheek; the
world naked before him—and
forest blank pages with bad poetry.
I also imagined that there were a few
peculiar things about this man;
he must have woken up many times
when the world snored herself away
to write a few lines; he must have read
his bad poetry aloud to her every night,
her head propped on his shoulder, the stars
dancing; twice, he must have been led
by bad poetry to the wilderness: that is
eighty days of fasting and being
tempted by good poetry.

An aside: somehow I imagined that
along the lines one of them died and the
other’s body became a revelation—into
something brittle.

As I walked away I imagined that they
loved themselves really hard and the
unapologetic truth in his bad poetry.

I imagined that they were
happy
and that made me
happy.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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The dilemma of a poem

I could
write about him bespectacled
in his study; damascened with
un-editable memories; the world
quietly strapped on his back;
his fingers caressing the
black & white keys of the
old piano like a lover’s touch;
his voice soaring through the
star-streaked ceiling on the
wings of Happy Birthday until
God & Beethoven & Satan
kiss music with eyes & splinter
earth in celestial ovation—

or
I could write about how
home is a nightmare that
always starts with the
portrait
of his hands—

or
I could write about how
a boy is a background
music to something too loud,
too broken—

I could
(if you had asked me,
which you
didn’t)

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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a poem you read from right to left

country a in flowers for ]
[ knife a is love in falling where

night last news the on
tyre pleading a whorled mob a
boy black a of neck the round
as watched i
eyes filigreed his
like fright with off took
dreams tired of sheet a
baptized they before
fire with him
of guilty was he said they
like boys other rapturing
with heaven into himself
torso firm & lips supple his
eyes my closed i
his over all fingers my traced &
screen the on shadow burning
death because
water like
everywhere us meets
him like because
of scent the carry too i
love for screaming boys
marks tribal like body my in
us like boys because
earth the walk
always foot a with
grave the inside
to how is this because
it what understand
deflowered be to means
country own your by

paste & copy may you
garden flower a is justice country my in ]
[ pain by pollinated are most

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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The federal constitution

of ghosts, 9102 as amended
stipulates that a ghost is a map.
Section 7 (e) says familiar ghosts
are hard to name; some are
adjectives trying to modify what
could have been; most are
conjunctions of things that
gnaw at deserts: in a way
that is an equilibrium to
something pauciflorous.

Section 7 (f) explains that in a
consensus of some sort, in
that psychological department
of chaos, man is a machine in
the day & a grave when night
blankets him: all ghosts are
advised to eat night.

Section 9 says if a ghost is
lost (in transition), the night
becomes a pathway into something
fractional (call it a home
outside a home), an
old body sterilizing happiness
with loss: unveiling a mechanism
that is—space.

Subject to the provisions of section
7 (e) of this constitution, ghosts move
like history, no time zones splintering
them—reinventing & planting
in little circles.

Section 1 (a), which is the most
important, says no ghost should ever answer
the question: how do you measure the
circumference of departed laughter?

Since the war (—)
ended, mother & I have been
eating the same ghost for dinner
—his laughter sits quietly between
us like unread messages.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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