elegy 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.