When the queen of a bee colony becomes too old or unproductive, the worker bees dispose of her by clustering around her in a tight ball until she overheats and dies.
─ National Geographic.
At nightfall, as always, I meet him
just at the foot of Carter bridge, brown skin;
catching the receding sun.
His eyes rush out to meet mine in the soft light,
just before they wander off again far into this body of water
as if to drag the waves' eye into the sunset.
In his head is the door of a deserted house left unlatched,
a window open to the sea upon which are stranded canoes
fastened by ropes kept supple with grease, to piers
here in this place of waters.
He searches for answers to a prayer long lost to the winds
and the still chorus of water creatures below,
running marathons, seeking to break free off the surface.
Even journeying is a form of prayer.
Perhaps this wayfarer has come a long way,
shedding layers of skin already heavy with the fatigue of fleeing.
This tongue, hidden in a body that has known the weight
of many morning years and now in its evening years
is burdened by its own shadow.
This twisted mouth that has known love like a salmon knows the damp
air of rivers, of another man waiting for a lover who left and never returned.
How long do we have until the things that guard us start to kill us?
Over a dinner table at an LGBTQ
‘sex re-orientation’ centre in Lagos, Nigeria,
a friend of my friend
sits at the other end of the table,
pondering on the mystery
of birds singing duets in a key.
I presume; how this call and echo work,
which means thrushes follow,
like all particle physicists,
the basic theory of subatomic particles
with emphasis on their Greek roots:
atoms: to be indivisible. Uncuttable.
Friend of my friend says something
about my lack of table elegancies
which translates to apparent temerity
in the face of war, by which he means:
in the way I cut through
blocks of grilled beef hidden
in my serving of entrée
with a certain vengeance.
But this is my way
of cutting through anger,
as though it were pills
forced down a child’s throat at daybreak.
But it’s sundown
and I must not mention
words by their names
for fear of the dead and dying
and the mob outside; awaiting my coming out.
But I want to look into the eyes
of my table-mate and whisper:
'hear me out!
there is a bubble in my mouth,
so defiant it could raise a dead man.'
Outside, the birds cover the trees
with soft chatter, and
I’m wondering why
no one has ever tried
to decipher the mystery
of sex and same-feathers
as it should be in their heads.
And I want to say:
you should know what I was,
how I lived before now.
I am all that you dare not see,
a requiem you don’t want
to recite on the streets at nightfall.
You should see a body open itself
to greet the departing wind at sundown
like a prayer offered to a flowing-river-god.
Here, at this table,
I cut through food with riotous grief,
sup on my tears.
I am a drowning
yet an awakening,
yet a rising;
chasing after a wonderment
of stars in full bloom; emergent.
From the tornado in my bones
to the luxury of healing.
About The Poet
Chisom Okafor, Poet and Nutritionist, was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award
for Poetry in 2018 and the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. His works have been published
or are forthcoming in Praire Schooner, the Indian Journal of Literature and Aesthetics,
Rattle, Palette Poetry, Frontier, SAND Journal, Adda, The 2019 Gerald Kraak Anthology
(The Heart of the Matter), Kikwetu, The Rising Phoenix Review, The Single Story
Foundation Journal, Praxis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is currently
co-editing 20:35 Africa, an anthology of contemporary poetry.