Fall 2020 Issue

Ballads of Obliteration

Before 2013 and Loss and We are sorry

On a newly reframed black & white portrait

of you, sitting on a bedside table— lengths

of your hijab stretches to the marbled floor

Incense smoke trailblazing the still air,

twirls into the shape of a man falling out of the sky.

Your unwrinkled face before you had me

Before 2013 and loss and we are sorry

Before innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un

Before please, accept our not really heartfelt condolences

& my father, breaking down in the middle of conversations

Now that I stare at your lips—

I wonder what they would have said about starless skies

& how they spread rumors of God napping, while His

creations  yank their faiths into the night’s eye;

of whole bodies, I do not mean you & I do, I promise

becoming moons that disappear at dawn to never be seen again.

A girl from our pathology class calls to ask

how best  memory’s eye could be shut out of one’s head

No loss ever truly remains lost forever, & I try

to say something else but all my mouth finds is the music

water makes of itself before drowning a man

This is not the first time I’ve tried to not make this poem

about you. I’ve unwritten this poem a zillion time

& in the middle of every line, you’re always there

Dancing yourself, unclothed, into my hands

At the Barber shop to cut something that isn’t my Hair

Dog-earing the center page of a magazine at a train station

a boy tells me of a time

he washed his tongue clean of his father

& did not feel the world gather in his breastbone.

the way his mouth opens to say father reminds me

of how  memory ricochet off the loop of time

before falling into itself

Later, I would run my stiffened fingers across photographs

— eternities of memories refusing to be graved,

Half-picking pulses off our mannequin smiles

Half-prying into the swollen darkness inside an uphill church

Imagine myself kneeing the floor all night

Curving my ears away from clouds of amen

Streaming out of my bruised kneecaps

As the skin on my elbows unfold into maps

of countries where a father’s homecoming is seen as homage to miracles

I’m afraid of talking to boys about distant fathers at train stations

Or in my sleep or basketball courts or anywhere that looks like you

I’m at the barbershop to cut something that isn’t my hair

& your hands are in this poem as overgrown vineyards

& your face is in every hair on the floor

& your face is in every mirror on the wall

& I’m afraid someone will find me trying not to look at you

Afraid I’ll try to say your name & it won’t be on my tongue

On Departures

Shell-shocked about whose aching voice to clad its presence in,

the news of her departure crept under every fallen roof in the city.

We opened our bodies to grief & her father held

a passport photograph of her to his ears like a cell phone.

His eyes swept through the soul of every breaking news

carrying a girl, found breathing with tributes in her mouth.

Somewhere, in preparation for his departure, a boy

tried gauging the earth’s weight on his body.

He was found a heartbeat away from heaven’s gate.

In my bedroom, candlelight stretches the walls into white skies

A girl riding clouds as dark as my thoughts sings me lullabies

Where every melody is a river bending towards forgiveness

The moon mocks me as I try to stitch her face to my third eye

My tongue pulverizes as she wriggles my neck to translate words

like anxiety & melancholy into rainbows, in my mother’s language.

Outside, I hear hands lifting in prayers to end the departures

of teenagers fading from life in their heads. I stretch the blinds

like an amen in my grandfather’s mouth and find

a starry sky holding out bright tomorrows between its teeth.

  Everything I’ve Lost Returns to me as Wind



Abu Bakr Sadiq is a Nigerian poet studying at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in (The Radical Art Review,) (Trampset), (The Muslim Write), (Konya Shamsrumi,) and elsewhere. Find him on twitter @bakronline

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