Spring 2023 Issue

To Keep A song in your Mouth

To Keep A Song In Your Mouth

Paul Chuks


A song drops in your mouth as the speaker adjacent to you blares Kendrick Lamar's The blacker the berry. You lie on the cushion. The song doesn't suit the mood tarrying in your heart. Lamar is gnashing his teeth about the government and announcing his blackness as a fact. That is not what you want. You miss your lover.


It has been nine months since your lover left for law school. There was no preparation for this phase in your love life where her absence would mount a lacuna in your heart. But you know love is reputed with veering off the path lovers, so you usher in a series of flashbacks in your mind and let them camp there.

The song in your mouth is a love song. You don't remember the title, nor most of the lyrics. You only know the piano was consulted in making the song; the drummer hit the drums as if he was evaluating pent-up anger. The chorus was a poem about a lover promising to take a bullet for his lover if need be. He failed to pass the loyalty test. 

You adjust your body atop the cushion, remove the pillow on your lap, and reach for your phone. You unlock it and scan through Spotify for any suggestions. You did not find any leading to your search but Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” catches your eyes. As Adele wails through the speaker, you squirm from the tenderness of her voice, churning out the poetics of the song. It transports you into a reverie where your lover is on top of you, her lips the protagonist of yours, even though Adele is nagging at her lover.


You are enjoying the scene in your head. A lover's kiss is an unmarketable jewel, you tell yourself. It's been nine months since she left, and the duration of studying in law school has elapsed. Your heart accommodated her absence because you had great respect for her ambition. Now, you can't take it if she doesn't return. Your mind begins to draft conspiracy theories about her whereabouts. One says she left with a rich law student and will never return to you. Another says she was never in love with you. Growling, you snap out of this reverie, unlock your phone, and hit the gallery. A photograph she had sent you with her lips pursed, blowing kisses to the viewer, popped on the screen. You hoped she had not sent this picture to any other person or else no choir would have been capable of singing you back to love. You stare at the pinkness of her lips and remember the warmth and compassionate feeling you are engulfed in anytime they meet yours. You think of your phone as your lover and French kiss the screen until it falls to the ground.

Another song holiday in your mouth. It's Mi Abaga's “Everything.” You love the mixing of the song, how it blends instrumentals and lyrics into grains of emotions. You don't like the atmosphere the song has created. You are still optimistic about the relationship. You are a poet and the difference between you and RnB singers is that you believe a flower can bloom in an unlit room, while an RnB singer will probe the absence of light. She will come back to me, you say to yourself, with all the faith you have accumulated as a Christian. 


You open your HP laptop and scroll to your Gmail account to read the emails you had exchanged before she stormed offline. She proposed going off social media to attain immense concentration for her final paper. You loved the idea, but it meant more absence. You were suspicious that she rescinded phone calls as well. It has only been two weeks since this development. 

When it comes to love, your heart thinks of itself as an elastic object. It can extend to the width of the River Nile if need be. You read the emails and can't help but notice the warmth, the love, the prudence of her words, the gorgeousness of her wit. You switch on the WIFI and set your fingers on keys to type a message down for. Nothing comes to mind, except the song in your mouth. After a few minutes of ruminating, you conclude by sending something as concise as four words that will invoke the love in her. You type: “Read this poetically: I love you Kell.” You hit send and never expect a response. 

Long minutes into your nap, your phone beeps from a notification. You power the phone. There is an email message sitting on the left side of the top of your screen. You nervously slam your thumb on the message, it grows on your screen and reads: “Re: Read this literally, I miss what we do at half past noon. I love you, I miss you and I'm back now“ Your face breaks into a burst of inextinguishable laughter. You can't contain this excitement. All the demons that ministered reproach about your relationship have been put to shame. You put out Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain” and the only song remaining in your mouth are undocumented lyrics about love. You type in response to her email: “Kell when are you coming home to me?”

Paul Chuks

Paul Chuks is a songwriter, poet, and storyteller. He is of Igbo descent and resides in Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Heavy Feather Review, Trampset, Ginosko, and elsewhere. He is a reader at Palette Poetry, Mud Season Review, and The Forge. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s analyzing hip-hop verses or moving his body rhythmically to the songs raving on his roof.

Follow us