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
                         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

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.

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.

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...

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. 

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 StudiesJournal of African Literature Association, and African Literature Today. He is a co-editor of Wreaths for Wayfarers, an anthology of poems.

Feature image by Barth Bailey on Unsplash