“a brief history” + “voices” by Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu
a brief history
your body is yours until
you place a lover’s name on your tongue.
after, there’s a new religion. godless.
a husky voice. a release. a dance with winds.
mine slithers, opens as a hungry mouth
every time an ocean advances.
when it begins to latch onto a new name,
i force its mouth closed,
stuff it with a finger or two. until it chokes.
but you do not do unkindness to your body
and walk away free.
your body will evade a memory for years,
boycott all the roads that lead to it
it will ignore. look away. untangle and rip
the fabric of shame;
open to hold another life, another breath;
push out and find its way back home.
your body will create a vacuum to fit peace, and
all the other salvations that do not require blood.
your body, however, will not forget.
confessing my sins again,
learning again the brutal tongue of naming:
how it will speak me to wholeness,
get my heart breathing again
still, i only talk about my head:
how, yesterday, i curled on the floor
held it in the insufficient world
between my hands,
pressing hard, trying
to strangle the waves. and the sobs. and the voices.
—but flesh cannot harm water. or sobs. or voices.
still, i lay there trying.
hurting in the same colour as
torn flesh waiting on blood.
hurting in the chest, in the head.
sprawled later on the floor at home,
my head and chest do that thing again,
i try to open my body with a blade, allow
the waves passage
i carve a route on my arm
but lord, you promised
Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu is a Nigerian poet and essayist whose work has appeared on Brittle Paper, Ake Review, Popula, After the Pause journal, The Bitter Oleander and elsewhere. She is a 2018 fellow of Ebedi Writers Residency.
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