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“I reach out for my epiphany as though I were a river boy rowing softly into the sunset” by Chisom Okafor

“I reach out for my epiphany as though I were a river boy rowing softly into the sunset” by Chisom Okafor

On evenings like this, I choose boyhood again,

to feel the innocence of trees whistle a gift of soft chorus 

to the wind at the waterside and the makeshift jetty 

of stakes dug deep into the earth 

beneath the river, in its silvery elegance.

I know how softly too, 

my body travels with this water,  

how it advances in little diagonal lines of waves, 

how it disappears as the waves crash 

against my canoe and I let myself slip 

underneath my own skin, to safety.

My lover once whispered unto a final slice of light,

from the hard deck of his own canoe, 

out in the evening cold: 

Trust everyone. But trust no one.

Which is to say, never feel sorry 

for this skin ─ virgin field, ready for the plough ─ 

of which you now call home.

Or for the love you choose to feed it, 

or the life you choose to gift it.

And I knew at once to approach this body 

the way a butcher comes to the slaughter

with hunger to kill, to save

a household when the day is spent.

So, I long for nightfall by the sea; a preamble to a story 

I’d soon be able to tell.

To give thanks for the things this battered body 

has finally become: a child again, 

benign again. To feed my bones a serving of relief,

like seafood spat out onto dry land, 

washed and clean again.


Chisom Okafor was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry in 2018 and the Gerald Kraak Prize of 2019. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, the Indian Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Rattle, Palette Poetry, SAND Journal, Frontier Poetry, adda and elsewhere.

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