Equidistance from then and here
I am bloodshot when
I say this because what
is silky about being thinned
with just enough breathing
space for recollection
and what says shame
like hating the way your
body loves itself
Yes this is a recollection
I stay up too much
these days anyway
reliving the inflammatory
joy of fingertips
grazing just enough
to say I tasted
hoping there are other
conflated bits threaded
into God’s palm like me
This is another recollection
I am no longer looking
for a savior
Lullaby-elegy for a preteen veteran
I am twelve,
all protracted limbs and skin
like cantaloupe insides. Paved places
but I still see the boys
seated in a circle, earth sunken
by the weight of them. Blade-eyed, they wash
nightmares. Splintered tongues
tell stories that smirk down at Mama’s tales under toe-nailed moons
too long ago. I saw, I want to unlearn they sing
and it is all percussive sighs.
One boy is looking down at his small body distended
by ashy faces, eyes telling of other places.
He is morning the ghost of himself sucking ixora.
Legs cavorting, he waves. Now, he heaves unspun smiles
and bundles it neatly, nurses his curdled heart
to look like mine.
Umuaka, someone is saying and the boys
hush, then say there are no children here,
they were taken, decorated with the silence
of those taken, those taken from.
Umuaka, someone is saying again and it hems me,
nooses me sweetly.
Breaths along my skin like cantaloupe insides.
I see I am a thing tended.
The girl is a remnant of Genesis
She will call you first picture of God.
Woman-bleeding bone. Name. No one
teaches a girl how to unsoften to
being hungered for & needled by
sweetness that cannot be good for her,
but she will learn. Parted to a nostrils-
gaping world, she will learn & call herself
a thrumming mold of past desires,
blame you for the sin curlicued in
her naming & knowing to be naked.
Soon, she will learn of a redemption she
must not gasp for, be re-drawn & culled
of your fragmentary sighs that come with
hiding from God, but for now she must
blame your mouthful of want.
Sweet tooth. Serpent.
Paula Willie-Okafor is an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is currently the custodian of TWC, a small community of writers at Nsukka.