Summer is gone with its conceit and cheer open arms and clear laughter desire on squirrel feet and the gooseflesh of thrill the bloom behind oaks and sumacs turns the sky into butter slivered with plums cherries and oranges to be young and labile hear nothing urgent in the earth’s groan what’s gone mad in the waters or at the borders lands scarred by oil cobalt or local egos what’s left of us anyway? should we trace dandelion dust on bare limbs uncounted gold of pollen and rust in the field where we sit? inside of us warmth losing its bite you – wanting more me – wanting to keep what’s out and spent loss we have no name for and longing like petals sucked dry of sugar above our heads a bee is an idea see it turning quicksilver: are we to tail its buzz or not wherever it leads gleaning joy like fuzz along the way? but in the air winter is closing in quiet heavy with purpose. In My Father’s Shoes I. His face is the memory of my father. I start from his form, a fish ebbed out of the water of sleep. Are you...? His voice is a knife’s tip, as was my father’s: What does it matter whose body I walk in? The air hurts my nostrils — In my room, the air warm and dry as a slap. Outside, the skin shrinks from frost. Go away, then. I bury myself in the duvet. The duvet smacks the floor with a flick of his wrist. But tell, how much time do you have? I can tell only once I am out of bed. He snaps his fingers, the flourish of a maestro. Let’s go out for coffee then. I am prompt as a dot. Off the bed. He snatches my car-keys. Off the desk. Hop in. II. We climb slush on asphalt, and he hums a familiar tune at 81 Ave. Ever wondered why you get to sing? I glance around to be sure he meant me. I don’t know that I can sing. His eyes leave the dahlias in the sky for the bloom on my face. This serious shit is some joke to you? I am no singer. I only write. What singing is not words? What writing is not song? White against the window, silence lengthens. III. On Whyte Ave, he points: burly bikers bragging at a bar-front, laughing as though the city were a trip they’ve taken many a time; a man protests on the curb, his beard long and sturdy: I’m citizen. Terrorist, not me. I only sit down a little. The cop lets out a laugh, smooth as his bald head. How do you know? That’s for me to find out, mister. One airport scene begins to bud in my head, but the mock-parade of preschoolers along the sidewalk dispels anger: Summer, please come. Winter, please go... IV. Right on time. We find ourselves in a cafe, slouching across each other, between us stands a face more Mexican than Filipino, her voice, too much syrup on pancakes: May I take your order? My father’s double picks up the daily. What’s news? Pardon me? Chestnut eyes level on him. London Fog. He smiles away her confusion. My spine straightens. Green Mango. He puts away the paper. Oilers lost to Maple Leafs. Squelch — rivulets of snow on the road. I hear him say: What’s new under the sun, Peter? I frown to show disinterest in weather talk. V. He stares ahead of me, familiarly, as would my father when he mumbled about the war in future tense. He tosses what’s left of his latte down his throat and says, The women of Lesbos and their god. The men of Lampedusa and their altar. What does the island know of bones? What does its people know of bones beneath the flow? A village adorns itself with bones from the water’s gut. And whose bones are those? Whose bones are those? But may your voice sing. May your voice sing, Peter. May your voice sing, Unafraid of chokehold. The refrain enfolds me, its echo long and earnest. I wake to light between the slats, the tang of berries on my breath, the stink of sweat on shirt, and the mind that I just rode with a man who’s travelled here before whose poems told of the war my father mumbled about only in our dialect.
Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike is a PhD Candidate and Vanier Scholar in the English and Film Studies department of the University of Alberta, Canada. His poetry is forthcoming in African Literature Today, Chiron Review; his short stories have appeared in The Evergreen Review, The Lamp, and elsewhere; and, his interviews have been published in Africa in Words, Brittle Paper, and forthcoming in Prism International. His critical writing has appeared in Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, Postcolonial Text, Journal of African Cultural Studies, Cultural Studies, Journal of African Literature Association, and African Literature Today. He is a co-editor of Wreaths for Wayfarers, an anthology of poems.