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.


Hunger Protocol

“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.