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Ejima. Image by Osinachi.

A Man’s Portrait Changing Faces

i.

Momma says the worm a bird eats it remembers:

a cloud of sweat, an earth of blood, a heaven of deficiencies.

She trolls our senses to somewhere deep

where water crowns the origin of man.

ii.

Home stands on mother’s crow feet.

That’s why whenever we see the lotus grow on a mammogram

the size of her breast,

we slobber all over the house like my mad sister,

painting portraits of Mary kneeling beside a crucifix.

Our father washes the cloud with his tongue

and spreads it on our hearts to dry

whenever he eats alcohol into his strength,

wobbling and falling, lobbing Jesus to the ground.

iii.

My body is the middle finger you ever had—

each time I read

Arise & Shine from the tongue of Isaiah.

So when we prepare a Death soup,

we mix forever with time:

a part of our bargain with life.

iv.

There are empty rooms in every heart;

The more we drink, the thirstier we become.

Everyday on my way to the Altar of Light.

I see looming darkness in every lifeless twig.

Maybe she came back to say,

Hey John.

This is the greatest mountain you ever climb.

v.

A man’s portrait changing faces:

from death to pain to melancholy.

The preacher says, Run from sin, be alone.

I am alone.

Alone like my mad sister when the night croons.

 

Before the Bird Flew Away You Saw the Photograph on the Back of a Notebook

i.

Whatever makes a man burn oozes from the skeletons—

A body hung on every portrait of blood & water that bears him

witness.

Every man becomes a mystery on our mother’s face;

The house built on doors of loneliness, windows of passiveness,

roofs of pessimism.

Here we die before we learn to spell love on the last page of my

father’s notebook.

ii.

Last night we learned to mould water

into globules of uncertainties folded under my bearer’s skin

As we gorged out our eyes to prepare the road to a thousand

wishes.

I walking. I jumping. I flying. I touching the sky.

The sky is empty. I falling. I breaking. Fallen I am still.

What it means to moult a face on the eve of a reunion with ashes

and sands?

Death bear us witness.

iii.

A man slips on God’s skin whenever he dies, the Book promises

& I wonder how Grandpa as black as the rim of my buttocks would

look like—

or maybe love needs no colour.

The day he slept under our feet

he shredded his skin to a black suit pulled tightly to his body

like the tightened fist of the Muscle man round his body.

Crying.

Tickling sands to bring forth every tree it has once rooted below.

But he puts our goggles on

& putting no comma or semicolon or question mark or apostrophe

to our face

He drew a full stop.

iv.

Every time night kisses me full on the lips.

I see grandpa clutched on a close-to-ground bamboo chair,

head capping his staff like God as he stares into my eyes.

There is charcoal smouldering under my eyes, it burns my skin.

I think I saw the photograph on my father’s note book.

Even before the bird flew away.

 

 

About the Writer:

N. N. Emmanuels is a Nigerian writer. He tends to portray the problems of our contemporary world through poems and stories. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Praxis Magazine, Tuck Magazines, Kalahari Review, African Writer, and many others. He is an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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