The sky folds itself into darkness slowly
a body receding into the fringes of a vignetted picture
& two dogs play at love in the dying light
the bitch runs around in circles and down the street
the man-dog rears his head, chases after her without luck
& sits on the ground with ears drooped in canine disinterest
she regards him awhile, dashes up to him & tongues his nose
with a furious wag of tail
I imagine she looked at the sky
& wanted to love while light abounds,
before nightfall, before the Apocalypse,
while he can still see the blackness of her coat
& the brown spots above her eyes that she gives him as an offering
My Ma Monica calls her kind of dog Four-eyes,
she said they see spirits, she said they are dogs
undazzled by the ghostly billowing of blanched boubous
but are impressed by the legless levitations of the ones
caught between this world and the one after,
& howl at the silence in a man’s body long before he is dead
I imagine this lady-dog is living up to what is expected of her kind—
employing her gift of clairvoyance & saving her lover all the stress
of playing tag in the dark
of groping in the destruction left in the wake of the Apocalypse
I am begging the light to linger a little more,
begging the sunset and all other cinematic accoutrements of love
to belong to us, to be ours for the kissing, for the tongue-ing
for all of the animal passions
//without the frantic hurtle towards self-obliteration
//without having to plough through the rubble for roses after doomsday
The bitch arches her back & the man-dog sniffs her,
prances around her//scatters the gathering dark with his tail
& feeds of the light she offers him.
Rock Me Gentle
The lightbulb flickers like a boy crouched before God’s breath
begging for the coming cyclone to be stilled at the threshold of presence.
Rock me gentle, let me flow down the sun-bitten asphalt—
I, harbinger trickle of Noah’s flood, palimpsest brandished
before the prophesy spurts from the mouth. Son of my mother, look up
behold the blue of sky, read the red of blood on the pigeons’ feet
as the second gunshot lifts them into the air. Above the billboards
bearing muscled men, above the kites ensnared in high-tension wires
above insurance posters saying: your future is in your hands.
And you flow with me. A butterfly riding on the dusk-wind perches
on a girl’s shoulder but the girl has a finger pointed at the body of a boy
slowly becoming not-a-boy. Let your hands shake my body like a child
seeking from the cookie jar what is no longer there.
Mother, as you pray God to send one last wind into my jaded lungs
take care to rock me gentle & keep your blouse arm from the secret
my body spills. Are we dancing or exercising? A crowd of
women gather around the body of a boy no longer a boy.
The news calls it an accidental discharge but I swear nothing is inadvertent—
not the deluge foreshadowed when sap oozes from yet another cedar
which Noah chops down for the prow of his ark. Not the future now limp
in the mother’s hands like a sparrow stunned from falling. You just rock my torso
Mother, what about the police van & the men posed beside it, faces smug
& hands on holsters? What about this whole country that stops only awhile,
looks, and walks like it is not the whole body of a boy on the sidewalk reveling
in being destroyed? If a cop shoots me, shoots me in the chest & watches
the trickling of blood down my Balenciaga shirt, I will pray my mother to
rock me gently, to rock me slow & beg God to give her arms strong enough
to rock everything else, too—into tremors, into tired trestlework falling,
into the chief of police standing on his head—as she rummages the earth
for chrysanthemums for my hair. Bodies fused as one & all the lightbulbs flicker
like boys bowed in the direction of something mighty to come.
O Father, O Foreshadow
Long before we came to the long shadows
of the steepled belltower with its blackbirds’ nests
& the great panel doors bearing Christ—the lamb
once lost now found draped across his shoulders,
the crook in his hand curved like a wave poised
to strike rock with tongue—we knew the sanctitude of hands
& how, when held together, they formed sinuous cathedrals.
On market roads. On chemist counters. Under desks
in a room where there is a boy—maybe two—bent over books as he dreams of pigeons falling into his pockets.
How he plucks their wings for his spine before hurling
them into the night. Wherever.
Before our fingers traced the grooves running through the wood
in praise of the light coursing through the skin of dead stars,
in praise of the woolly underbelly absorbing divine neck-sweat
—magic of adze, magic of a thing not found by wolves, magic—
we knew the sanctitude of hands. Ixoras blooming around the
headstones like the epilogue of a knifing.
A bombed church in Borno. Think it. Stained glass flying
like birds hiding the colours of their plumage from the wrong eyes.
The saints, now on their sides, look at their pedestals with stone eyes.
The altar of grace now the altar of gore. Mother & daughter trapped
in the rubble for seventy-eight hours. The news said they were
found fingers laced—church gone but not the chancel
of their hands.
*From the poem, ‘A Little Closer to the Edge’ by Ocean Vuong.
is a writer, poet and visual artist exploring photography as a means of documentation, and the re-examination of sight. He has been a third prize winner of the Singapore Poetry Prize, a winner of the Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize, and a finalist for the Frontier Award for New Poets. He has been nominated for a Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barren Magazine, Off The Coast, Welter, Singapore Unbound, Blue Marble Review, Palette Poetry and elsewhere. When he isn’t playing pretend-guitar or dancing before mirrors, he reads poetry or mourns his country. His social media handles are: Onyekachi Iloh (Facebook), demigodly_kachi (Twitter)