For dinner, my lover served salted pears.

If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.


Everything went wrong: hope cracked our spines.

You were milk, and my body was full of tongues.


I was milk, and your body was full of tongues,

Cheeks stuffed with crows, anthracite for eyes.


I kissed your cheeks till my eyes bled anthracite.

Tonight, my breath belongs to the moon.


Tonight, I will wear the moon on my breath.

Hunger will be back. You will forget your name.


Hunger is your name. Forget your teeth back home.

Love is the difference between rain and God’s tears.


Love is God’s tears, crimson dew in dawn’s blue.

My pearly eyed lover, salt of the earth.



Ghazal from the beginning

nana/body a bewildered alif standing in your rabb’s throat/like a beginning

anqa in your mouth/golden eggs for teeth/this distance between your tongue and the beginning


what to do with your throat/now that you have left your rabb cold/palms kissing cheeks?

you dusk/you bloated desert/you who would still be tart/had your mouth remained yours from the beginning


by the fig/by the olive/they will come for your hands

they will take umbrage at your delicious hymen/they will demand a new beginning


you dance naked for so many moons/your spine cracks/your ribs slit the sun

you become the dagger/the sour earth/the bones/the rain/the stench of bloody beginnings


you stealer of tongues/al-asr stuck in your hair/like stray hay

will you not tell us/where you have buried our hands/show us a new place to begin?


my god, the ugly story of your face/lips smashed against jaws

we know why you howl louder than the moon/trace all the alifs back in search of your beginning


portrait: your cold golden teeth/bewildered/lost in an ayah about dogs

nana/yours is the sweetest blood/without you/there is no beginning


You, citizen, are the aftermath of forest fire: fingers sizzling,

smoke for hair, even your knees have been done in but you

must move on from this. You must drag your wreck of a body

from noose to noose and only stop when you are told to stop.

When the police stop you, you must give them your hands.

You must pass this simple test of patriotism: the government

and your mother are in a burning house, who do you save?

It does not matter which option you choose. This story

always ends with blood pooling in the center of your forehead.

Have you learnt nothing at all? You must know better than to

ask what the government can do for you, instead, what can you

do for your government? You must keep your body and mind fit.

You must pick pebbles in both of your hands, and swallow just

enough to survive. You must leave adequate space in your belly

for a bullet to rest. You must report your neighbor to the authorities

when he spits on the flag. You must not speak the name of the dead.

You must not speak the country’s name in vain. You must not speak

unless you are told to speak. You must sleep with your eyes and ears

wide open. You must spot treason from a mile away.  When you go

to the market, to school, to the bank, you must wear your best dress.

You must say hello to every citizen you meet on the road. You must

let your family know where to find your body. And when it is time

to sing the national anthem, you must, by all means necessary, scream

the words so loud, your body explodes into millions of tiny, bloody flags.

My left leg



Aubade to ruin

cobbler boy,

wax lacquered eyes,

conch shells for collarbones,

earth pliant between your toes,

who are you when you have no more soles to take?

you who would love me to death,

braid your teeth in my hair &

that would be enough

under the jade moon,

your fingers undressing me are jerk needles. I lean into them

& feel the warmness trickle down my arms

look how breathtaking we are,

tongues out, bellies

quivering with need, fur

glistening with blood

cobbler boy, it is you who I have kept this skin supple for.

sink your teeth into the softness of my hip

& get drunk on the lignite in my veins – that would be enough,

this hunger is all I need.

I have wanted you for so long, cobbler boy;

breasts deliciously wrapped

in leather, dusk lined eyes, body

musked to perfection. I have waited for you till my eyes

rolled backwards, till time

became me. I have loved you, cobbler boy &

you have eaten my soles.

Haneefah Bello is a poet and short story writer. She lives in Edo, Nigeria, and studies law at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, second place winner of the Akuko Lit competition, and winner of the Loft Books Short Story competition. Her works have appeared/are forthcoming in PoetryColumn NND, Praxis Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, Akuko and elsewhere.


– ‘Duplex’ has been accepted for publication in Atlanta Review as the winner of the 2021 Dan Veach Prize for Younger Poets

– ‘My left leg’ has been published in IceFloe Press as part of the New International Voices Series