“She Begins to Speak” + “Seismic” by Saddiq Dzukogi
I am shimmering behind a wall,
like a flame in a lantern. Hold me
down in your body. Everything
in my life is fragrance;
myrtle, chrysanthemum, freesia.
I want to watch as you plant daffodils
where it aches the most. Turn your heart into
a garden. The place of my rebirth
attracts joy like petals attract insects.
Everything in my life is a flower,
I live inside the smell like a moth
twirling towards the farthest bulb——
Don’t despair, it reflects on me.
I am anchored to your feelings.
Inside your body, it spikes when you despair.
I think of all of you in the household,
and quiet down like a seed in an ovule,
quiet like a ghost armed
with knowledge of death
for the first time, I quiet down
like wall flowers growing on
the creepers leaning on me, growing
over me. I keep my shape,
the shape of the dead, that is how
I’m allowed to stay now. I am here but
almost not, that is how ghosts exist,
almost a figment. There is nothing sad,
do not despair in the universe
as a miniscule, for I am here,
more than a memory, when you remember
me, I become whole for a moment,
before cringing back into this form,
absorbed inside a frame, absolve yourself
of the guilt, it is the only way for me
to live. I hear you crave my voice
in your dreams, the thing is, I do not
know how I sound, and I’m scared
of speaking in a way that you won’t know
it’s me. But know that your voice is in
my body, you echo in my bones,
quite loudly, the one dead feels alive.
Speaking to you, I ask too much
from behind this wall.
I want to manifest in ways that convince you
I’m watching the world as it wrinkles, alongside your skin,
I cannot stop, it is my life-source to watch you,
my brother, and mother, it’s a joy splattered
over my face like sunlight. My right hand
a torch pointed towards any darkness
that confronts you. When the daffodils grow,
my rebirth is complete. Your grief is empty,
when your pillow dries- put it out there
let sunlight claim its wetness.
I know what you feel, that sadness
keeps me physical in your body,
but you have to let go, it’s a monster
bullying me here— I have my mother’s hand,
go on and hold her. What else can open
your eyes? My eyes are still
there, and whatever you saw in them
you can see inside my mother’s.
There is grief inside, as well,
but it’s only by looking that you can
get it out. They won’t detonate,
not if you stare, taking your eyes off them
is like removing the pins. Do not despair,
my body is stardust across the night sky,
and rays across the day’s. Do not let your body
continue as a village, sacked and burned.
In the market-square he leans against the tower
as the world passes by. A hole,
the extent of two palms fisted together
in his chest. Often, he prays to perish into silence,
the silence of nights removed from a prayer’s
ointment, to lay the wound bare.
Each time he turns his face towards the east
and presses his forehead to the ground,
he sees his daughter beside God, in the eyes of
people, is in the eyes of the world, as a witness
to the sprouting of meadows. See how the earth proceeds,
nourishes the ground after a drought. When he faces the moon
and says he’s the pitch, the earth mends back
its plates that shift from quake to quake.
Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Saddiq is the author of Inside the Flower Room, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. His recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Poetry Society of America, Gulf Coast, African American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Daily. ‘
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