Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘After Building My House’ and other poems

By: Jonathan Chibuike Ukah

After Building My House

After building my house
with my intestines and blood
splashed over the walls and roof,
the villagers complain
that their gods dwelling in caves
are becoming intimidated.

The sudden rise of my windbreaker,
sweat-encrusted tower of refuge
in the middle of the forest
where their gods take turns giggling
turns their kingdom into a burning bush,
a bruising storm.

They make peace with their gods,
to fight against every shadow
that causes their birds not to rest;
they dress up in green grass,
like silent, slithering, snakes,
peace looks like water thinking.

Last night, I heard deep groaning
from the chamber of sacrifices,
like a choir of loose intestines
feeding on fallen gods;
the cry of a bird in the wilderness,
the lament of deserted gods.

Not one of the villagers lost a tear,
or a limb or spilt water,
watching intimidated gods die
on the day of resurrection;
they were spirits, the villagers moaned
dead gods cannot shelter us.

They have sleepwalked into war,
though the sun is silent;
they are fighting on many fronts,
making a blood sacrifice of their desire,
fighting a broken wall, fractured glass,
chunks of sacrilege, steeped in anger.

Each time I arrive, each time I seek rest
I turn on my lamp, light up the fires,
I watch flies, moths circle my lanterns,
Kneeling in worship
In prayer, without looking back
At the old abandoned gods.

My Life in Your Hands

I have placed my life in your hands,
like burning gold on a saucer of water.

I have sought refuge in the oceans,
and the seas are too deep for me.

I skipped into the forest of Egwele,
for raindrops from overhanging leaves.

My mother tossed me at the hills of Alumaku,
for her priest to wash me with a bucket of water.

My father took me to the mountain of Durukwu,
where the oasis waited for burnt animals.

My flesh itches; my skin is scaling down,
I have exhausted my search for a messiah.

I decided to come to you and be inside your life,
to surrender to you all the cares of this world.

Handle me as though you’re gathering rain from the sky,
clutching me at your heart to fill up your vessels.

I believe that your place has been my destiny
which I tried to subvert in a thousand ways.

The farther I tried to escape from you, the closer I came,
the embodiment of my healing, my world, and my spirit.

This fire was only a ruse, the stuff of worries
through which God sent me up to you.

The searcher of my soul, my ultimate death.
I will float in my spirit to be with you.

A Shoulder to Stand on

Please give me a face that can carry four
then I will come to you in multiple;
I want to cover your face with my body.
Every part is carved into a million pieces
dismembered, dislodged by the blink of your eyes
and the shattering beams of your layered smiles.
If I may stand on the tip of your hair,
the moon would be but a fingertip away;
the sky is mightier than the ocean,
yet your palms hold it lest it crashes.
and if I’m four, you and me and our souls,
your shoulders will be too stiff for us to slide.
The ocean, in all its glory and elegance,
stands on the marshy ground to take some air,
where leaves fall and slide into the river
and worms dig holes to hide their slimy skin,
vultures scramble for fresh flesh,
or raindrops soak up its wetness
for the burial of bodies and seeds.

But you are lighter than the ocean
which needs sand and pebbles,
to fulfil its destiny of stilling our thirst
and being the pilot of the largest ship.
I know that I can stand on you,
since your palms can carry the night,
and the sky is light on your shoulders.
The sun will rest on your eyes,
and make you its eternal spyglass,
where your eyes form its rays
and your smile becomes its echo.

Though your shoulders are broader than the moon,
they slump and sag over time;
your eyes may be too dim as the sun’s echo
or your palms too wrinkled for Heaven’s door.
against the darkness, I will stand on my own,
and let my tomorrow morph into my substance.
experience is too liquid, or love too solid
to stand on for the rest of my life.
Yet the clouds still stand in the thin air.
I keep quiet despite my teeth clattering in my mouth,
because I have not known what else to do.

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