WHAT IT IS ABOUT NAMES
every word i say is an alley
between two walls [worlds] it’s
the story of my name as melodies void
of recognition as the stench of lambs
wandering aimlessly in woodlands after
the shepherds were lured into
the unending coldness of the White Nile of death
i am the unhealable the unforgetfulness of the unnamable
i make silence a form of creation an act of healing
i know how silence make languages the
strangest things how the colour of my skin
is a secret yet to be told to the bearer
how the wrists don’t know the significance of the phalanges
how the cartographer became a ship lost at sea
i don’t have my worth i don’t actually get to hold it or taste it
except if i break the sun into my eyes &
sing the song of arrival – the tongues of redemption the chorus of names
no cloth is a good fit
until you gather all the unknowns of your body & give them a name
names are colourful healing – the hallowedness of arrival
i grew up in homes where you feel the weightlessness of names
on the tongue before they leave your lips with their broken wings
but if only i could change this rhythm of alphabets
if only i could tongue them out uniquely
i will sing my songs with my eyes closed — such fear and still sing wholeness to broken wings
and by this, i language in their verses of fulfilment in the dead end of belongingness
ODE TO HOMELINESS
my father says that if i look too well at every sidewalk of the
roads that lead to home, i might find maggots & dead things,
that i’ll find myself saying a story in a language that only knows
the face of sorrow. this is my story, our story. this is the only tongue of sorrow.
i am the night of crescent moon. i am the homely animal
covered in truckload of loneliness & bitterness like green onugbu.
what fills my pith is the embroidery of burnt feelings & haunting story–
about ripples, liquid silence & fear; about how our dead seem not to be dead,
live in the pocket of our voices, in the heritage of our hearts. what
is the stain in every word i say, in the name i was given?
i am the broken men & women in the unending ripples of liquid
grief, gathering round the trunk of a campfire. i am their feet–
the nakedness of dust, also their mouths – the shivering tongues
of death. i am who they are. i am what they carry. i am my body.
i am them as they sink every drop of tears into the night. i am
the girls who must have been kidnapped in their voices, the
families separated in the falling voices. i am, also, the dwellings
drowning in flames in the vocal cords. i clench my loosening hands,
lose breaths like Papa loses a tooth each time he tries to crack spongy
bones. i am a buried coffin, grief is the termites, love is the remains.
my father always says that, even weeping is a kind of language,
language of unchained rivers, language of remembrance.
i am the hungry muezzin at the rooftop, speaking the language of remembrance,
bearing his mother in his arms, & calling loss to prayer–
prays that he wears this loss like an epithet, that he doesn’t
forget the calligraphy of silence written on the tongue of his mother.
i am the man who is without the posture of tranquility, but a body of
war, who knows that no amount of prejudice nor cry can
unmake the silence of a war-torn home, who retches
after gargling hell, who says to his son: wounds don’t
heal, they seal. i am a black poet. i am a dark poem.
i am the repetition of the last words a boy offered before
his home drank him alongside his dreams: peace & unity… peace & unity
peace & unity… peace & unity… peace & unity… peace & unity.
repetition of loose words. i can say my name is the strangers’
flowers given to my mothers’ mothers on the day of union. i can
say that there is something that can set a world apart from her breath.
i can say there is nothing that can grow the skin away from its roots.
i will say i am the roads that lead to home, i hide behind this ode.
i will ask why i am the antagonist in every poem, why i am the
most uprooted among all races, and i will say:
root me anew, oh Universe.
I have a blood my fathers’ blood my black blood
my sons’ blood an ancient blood the first blood
my brothers’ blood & not the slave blood not the plague blood
not the blood that runs in the veins of a moving slave ship
not the pariah blood not the nigger blood
I have an origin in the eyes that grew many bones
in the bodies that language with dynasties of scars & grief
in the heart of mothers whose stories & stamina
possess names & desires that fill the ellipsis of creation
who have been taught that life is the miscegenation of pain
& pain & pain & love who were told that when the morning
is the flood pool of trauma they should shed old skin
& make another & another & another
I have a tongue the early tongue my mothers’ tongue
a tongue bloated with thirst with the carefulness of songs
with the nakedness of history with the alienation of identity
what is alienation if not a lunged body seething underwater?
if not a rusted saxophone what is history if not a lamp
in a lighthouse guiding sailors to the end of prayers?
I have a lineage that never dies that leaves its claws etched
in blood in beauty in resurrection
Nwaoha Chibuzor Anthony
is an Igbo-born poet and medic whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Jalada Africa, The Stockholm review, 20.35 Africa anthology Vol III, Praxis magazine, Artmosterrific, Sub-Saharan magazine, Art Lounge, Headline Poetry and Press, Giallo lit, and elsewhere. He was a finalist in the Kingdom In The Wild Poetry Prize 2020. His microchap, If You Would Hear Me is available for purchase on Giallo lit website. He lives in Orlu, Southeastern Nigeria. Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/heisamaverick?s=09.