A Conference of Last Cards
Bring me the city whether the city surrenders or not.
What bridges have in common is a monument of letters
written in past tense.
Sieve through the ache and noise.
The stones are endlessly weeping in the dark.
Or is it the bird-chatter of the rain? O darling,
are you writing another poem about trees.
No, not trees, but ghosts that live on trees,
and their legend of never-let-gos.
The sight of your blood makes me fever-sick.
Isn’t that more-than-enough reason to hide
a butcher’s knife inside your wrist-box?
I think if we fuck our bodies hard enough,
we might still make heaven.
I think if you had followed the doctor’s prescription,
I wouldn’t need to plant a continent of marigolds
at your burial site.
Come here, darling, let’s party in the same city
where those doctors could not save your diseased kidney.
Sweat buds ripening. Urine-blue stains all over the floor.
The spit-wet bone of your hunger, genderless and spectacular.
Another final rough-nightstand before you perish.
“If it’s darkness we are having/ let it be extravagant”—Jane Kenyon
I cannot bury the darkness sprawling above my hair.
The stars, ancient compatriots of the dizzying dark
and suicide-lonely, eye-wink elegantly in far-flung cities
a springtide of spectacular grace, but not in this kingdom
of mud-brick and nothingness where I exist as queasy
as an old poet standing on a rickety bridge watching
the slow demolition of an ark, its battered wood and steel
shimmering down the dark marrow of a river’s tunnel—
what I’ll often call self-ruination and follow through
like a cockerel in search of worms. This kingdom, I tell you,
where the laughter of dead leaves, the midnight squeaking
of grasscutters and squirrels hoofing across the campus
of green, the soft flush of hard water against the aluminum
roofs are the sad hymns of the dead rising from the heart
of sand. All night long, I try to trick the antagonistic universe.
All night long, I try to bring back what’s lost—a white-collared
cow chewing its shadow off a patch of light-washed grass.
The crest of my tongue, fashioned out of a hunter’s blade
hunger-green and still greening like a forest on fire under
the harmattan’s dirty wind— a martyrdom of feet reaching
for the grainfield of mercy. A dog saunters into the grave
wonder of the starless night the door open-mouthed
a signature of nagging absence, and I’m reminded not
of absence but the verbalization of faith: the act of watering
a garden in the avalanche of a storming war. I denounce
the kingdom thrice. I follow the noise of birds and crickets
down the staircase, past the oaken door, down the old road
where two dogs lay silent, unmoving, under the curvet
of blinking streetlights like the aftermath of an unspoken prayer.
O God, I cry out to the universe, keep me here a little longer.
Hey Stupid Moon, I Have Given You Everything
What have you given back (any gift?)—even here, in this private essay
written as a reward to love’s august performance no matter how short—
since all good people and all good things often disappear at the juncture
where they become sublime testimonies worthy of intimate celebration
a volvox of luminous miracles cartwheeling at the other side of longing
like half-written love letters, without carton permission cards to remark
on their oncoming awayness or an adventure-long kiss that nail-drills
a giant hole through your wall of lungs and leaves you wanting-more
despite your unknowingness of faith—though, night after night
I have followed you in blindfolds, hands upon your thin-boned shoulder
through desert plains and hills, longing for ordinary things: abundant rain;
a bed of soft grass; the tisk-taws of burning wood to keep my body alive
in the cold chambers of this world; Black Sheriff’s Kwaku lyrics wetting
my ear drums like a minute-shower of heavy-footed rain after a desert storm;
or a half-open kerosene-ruined page of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
to survive the cosmic weight of loneliness that wrecks me every damn time
you exhaust your many-lives—fellow lonely traveller, tell me, have you ever
given me any gift without naming all the tiny polished golds I cannot hide
in my trouser pockets or the wild joyous pigeons parading on the thatch-roof
of my mindhouse that will never allow me to touch their pretty feathers
even though I have fed them daily what’s left of my imperial blood—why
do you love to stain the doormats of my happiness, a dead rattlesnake
underneath my bed? Why do you always de-joy my joy?—Tonight
a prayer moonwalks over my tongue: may the deer survive the wolf. Amen.
Njoku Nonso is a Nigerian Igbo-born poet, essayist, writer of fiction, and medical student, who lives and writes in/from Ojoto as a tribute to the spirit of Christopher Okigbo. His works have been featured or are forthcoming in Rising Phoneix Review (Pushcart-nominated), Bodega Magazine, The Shore, Animal Heart Press, Palette Poetry, Brittle Paper, Kissing Dynamite, Praxis, and elsewhere. He’s currently working on his first poetry chapbook and still loving stray dogs. Hook up on Twitter @NN_Emmanuels.