after Kazim Ali
The family inside at the dinner table is no longer mine.
It’s been three years since I opened that door & lost a tooth.
Everyone ate silence; mum avoided looking at my lips –
Our hands on the cold glass minutes before thunder quivered.
I am in the news again for the wrong reason, convicted for aches, patched.
Someone says I am the lilac-breasted roller. I am aggressive when the wind
challenges the moon & the rain pursues the streets to the brink of an ocean.
My mum’s hand doesn’t freeze in the air when she learns everyone is talking
about my escape story. She walks into the kitchen & whip up peppery Jollof rice
& some avocados, sit out, & eat till she no longer hears what everyone is saying
about the maps & the cartographers of memories. After, my father walks backward
into the bedroom he was meant to share with my mum, he writes out my name, cancels
it, tears it out, crunches & forgets a curse in the trash can. He is looking through
the window & my mum is backing him & I am backing the world. Noah’s flood is here again.
Lagos is Lagos in July, ducking on the island’s tears.
& never-end-happily Friday nights. I am yellow like the buses.
& gross like the traffic. My man is standing in the middle of it all.
At every intersection, we walk into each other feeling empty.
Would it have been possible twenty-five years ago for us to smoke out pains
by making love? My mum would have been there alone at night waiting for her man
till past midnight & finally hugging the pillows tight to sleep. Yet it wouldn’t be great
a story because there must be sharks in every great sea or water body. & it wouldn’t
have been so for my sister who never slept with anybody for comfort. I am twenty-
five for the last time & I am washing plates in the kitchen of a stranger just to get ahead
of it all. After, I am in the bathroom & their ex’s towel still hangs there, swinging with life.
Through the blocks of it all, the city walls & madness, my man is a stranger to me like
I am an alien to Lagos’ arid air. Who looks for comfort in sullen eyes? Who smokes for air?
He walks into the kitchen for inspection, the plates slip his hands. Everything broken is broken.
About the Writer:
Akpa Arinzechukwu is a Nigerian dealing with their numerous identities. Their work has been published by or featured in the 2017 Best New African Poets anthology, Saraba, Sou’wester, Transition, London Grip Poetry, Eastlit, ITCH, New Contrast, The Flash Fiction Press, The Rising Phoenix, Packingtown, and elsewhere. They were a finalist for the Sophiamay Poetry Contest and longlisted for the Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction. They are the author of the poetry chapbook, CITY DWELLERS (Splash of Red).