Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Àkpà Árinzèchukwu





Salat 01

All I had to do was to steal the man back to life,
faraway from the worms building a nest in his coffin —

a simple task that would mean that my friend from morning
to mornings would talk to his father & not the ghost from his dreams.

If he has to cuss a father he’d step into his room & have him in flesh, &
not at the half-burnt picture of a man taped to a broken mirror, nor me. He’d look

a father in the eyes to understand God. It’d be gentle, intimate. It’d be the minute’s
hand before disaster. A pigeon, tracing from the masjid to uncertainty

the feet of the last man who walked in forgetting to perform his ghusl,
forgetting the names of God his Lord. Lord, it is possible a man cannot

out-smell his sorrows. Let our memories be today. Tomorrow is a flamingo
playing in a polluted river. Wouldn’t a man in his grave regret for a millisecond

for all the time he has now in his speckled eyelid to not care about memories? Ya Allah,
I know he loves me, but we want from our fathers too the same thing we want

from God, to be present — attending to our desires with such tenderness
a dew greets a leaf in the cold days. If we separated desire from patriotism

would a man still look at his son & nod full-scale in approval or would it be another stunt
to stop the sun? Men, in their desires to be patriots burn down the country we all love.

Ya Allah, I am in love with a man who looks at me & is reminded of his father’s sins.
Please give me the grace to locate the qibla within the walls of me six feet down

as I pull from the ribs of a dead man any semblance of me in many dead forms.
What I want is to be touched & not feel guilty for having a foot in a history not mine.


Salat 02

If this were water, I’d have jumped. Head first,
Then fully in the belly of it when all energy

has been exhausted, I’d throw one last fist against
the tide, curved by a tilapia weighing each of our demise

on a scale of infinite loss, skewed reminiscences.
Grief, forsake me!

A boy is dead. Another wants death more
than life. I guess we’ll never know

if God is for or against us. Teach me
how to name my grief & they’ll be nothing anymore

left on earth to amaze, for what is a war if not
life lived in retrospect?

I am the emptiness my mother has refused embracing,
the hand thrown in disbelief. Lord, I am a boy

who should’ve been a girl. I don’t know my place amongst the dead.
I don’t know how it feels to be alive.

I keep getting this little horse ready for battle, but Lord
who does this victory belong to?



Now that they are no more, the stars,
God, I want my own living. A flower

parachuting into sunshine —

How was I to know God’s plan if I never saw
a clean sheet? Ya Allah, if you want to punish me

for a sin not mine, could you please allow me back
into my ex’s life? This man throws a stone at you

but it is me you are beating into the sea. He bullets
a hole in everyone’s heart but it is me that has to bleed.

I want this man back. I want to fuck a man up. Will you believe it,
God, asleep last night a man touched me as if he was reaching

for fire. I was his sacrificial lamb. He bullets a hole in the sky,
shrapnel through your feet, but it’s me you are making bleed?

I want to live & I want it more than I want to be in your presence.
Forgive me, I prayed five times already, cleaned up a trillionth time,

still, his fingers buried inside me blot the sun, morphing my day into night eternal.
Let sorrow be sorrow, let a man be a man. Offer me the head of my abusers,

let the sky worry about the sorrows that come with the night. I am exhausted.
How can a bear want some fish & not blood?

Last night a boy kissed me so bad at the club I ran into the toilet & cried
so hard my eyes dropped dead. Father, when I said “I want so badly to live”

I didn’t mean to be cursed with forgetfulness, carrying on like nothing ever happened.
I didn’t want also to be Prometheus. Let my liver be as we found it.

Let man burn for his desires as much as he pays for a sin.


Photograph of Àkpà Árinzèchukwu by Àkpà Árinzèchukwu.

Àkpà Árinzèchukwu is an Igbo writer. Their work has appeared or forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review, Poetry Review, Adda, Fourteen Poems, Arc Poetry, Clavmag, A&U Magazine, Middle House Review, Foglifter, Dgëku, and elsewhere. They were a finalist for the Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest in 2020. More from this author →