the animal is broken open 
like dried palmnut, beads of blood 
litter the ground like dew drops. 

like struck guitar strings, my insides 
quiver for the cocoon of my mother's embrace, 
for the after-rain smell of her body. Lord, 

what the fuck am I not doing right?
what manna did I store up? the Lord says, How dare you
hope! like Isaac catching the message in his father's eyes,

the way every good son does, I lay myself 
down for the hard edge of the archangel's knife. 
split me open, Lord, & behold the. 

*I must say that I want to be truly happy
after Logan February

which means, there is nothing here 
untouched by the slimy fingers of insanity
which means, my mother's mouth is lost
which means, a sparrow, iron-clawed, left a city in God's chest
& stole my mother from my tiny hands
leaving behind flaky crumbs of her love
which means, God is not innocent
which means, inside me, I carry a doused star
which means, once I was mad for God
which means, I am what sits in-between the equation
which means, I carry a life that is not well
which means, Fireboy's Remember Me is alive in my body
which means, this hunger for the heavy smell of my father
which means, longing keeps leaking like a bad faucet
which means, I keep going back to the before
which means, I am sick of this animal
which means, everything here is in danger
which means, I do not want this life.

(The title of this poem comes from Chinua-Ezenwa Ohaeto's poem, "I Set Up a Table and Have a Dinner with Pa").

cold defense

aren't we such fools, all of us with our share 
of madness, to believe that our lives mean any

-thing, to believe that every day we survive is 
God's refusal to turn the key of disaster in the door 

of our story? but what else to believe in? like you, 
I am sick of religion, but isn't there something in us 

that tilts toward hope? (can we help it?) &, if there is 
hope, must we not assume that there is a thing bigger 

than us, big enough to make this madness make 
sense? listen: every time I try to say something bright, 

my mouth slurs. I swear. still, I can go on, building you 
tiny paper castles from my share of madness - but won't you 

attend to other things in your life? won't you go ahead & 
dance? won't you call somebody the soft puppy of your heart 

longs for, somebody the home of your body wants 
to shelter - an ex-lover, some cold friend? won't you 

fill these bones with careful music?

hand of my fa(r)ther

o hand of my father/ hand packed
with blades & shards of ruined time/
hand heavy as a curse/ o hand/ o holy 
hand/ o heavenly hand/ o fiery hand/
hand that opened up my mother/ like 
a book/ hand/ careful hand/ hand that 
plucked the bones from inside my mother/ 
hand laid down each plucked bone/ like 
a gentle lover/ hand of distance/ hand 
of disaster/ hand of my father/ hand 
of the father/ hand o hand/ hand holy 
hand/ hand ugly hand/ hand that bakes/ hand that 
breaks/ hand of ruin/ hand of rain/ 
hand of reign/ handsome hand/ hard
-some hand/ hand opened me/ like 
a can of sardine/ & emptied my body
of light/ hand thick with night/ o hand 
of my father/ o hand of my farther

Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí is a writer and editor from Nigeria. His works have appeared/ are forthcoming in Joyland, Tinderbox, Journal Nine, the Indianapolis Review, Down River Road, the West Review, the Dark Magazine, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry III, Agbowó, and elsewhere. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology. A finalist for the 2020 Dan Veach Prize for Younger Poets, he is on the editorial board at Palette Poetry, the Masters Review, and Counterclock Journal. 

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