A Poem by Caleb Nichols

PRAXIS

On the beach
two pelicans
half a mile apart,

the second
gull pecked,

both bodies
wave washed,

oil slick.

When all the birds
fly south forever
what will the poets do?

Catalog the empty sky,
write the tiny graves.


Caleb Nichols is a queer poet and musician from California. His work is forthcoming in Redivider and has been featured in Perhappened Mag, Daily Drunk and elsewhereHis poem, “Ken,” won an Academy of American Poets University Prize, and his first chapbook, “22 Lunes,” is available from Unsolicited Press. 

‘Every House Has A Closet’ by Praise Osawaru

Olawale stood in the corridor, in front of the brown door, gawking at its strange markings. Whispers streamed from the closed door into his head every second he spent looking. He wanted to turn around and resume cleaning the house—the reason he followed his mom to Mr. Idemudia’s house, to assist her in tidying up the rich man’s home. The same thing he had always done every weekend. But this door held his gaze, compelling him to a standstill.

A sparrow flew and landed on the window of the corridor, offering an alluring tune. Or perhaps it was a warning. Olawale ignored it. He stretched forth his hand, gripped the doorknob, and twisted it left, right, left. The door opened wide. Within, darkness the length of the room. Another whisper and he took three footsteps in. The door slammed shut behind. Then, he realized what had happened.

“Mom!”

Upstairs, his mom froze on hearing his scream. She threw her broom into the bosom of a couch and dashed off. She traced the echoes of his screams downstairs, a room by the end of the corridor. The same room Mr. Idemudia told her to never enter. Her heart quaked within and she let out a shaking breath.

Just the day before, she had walked into the four-bedroom duplex conscientiously, following an invitation from Mr. Idemudia. Her friend who knew a friend who knew another friend secured her another cleaning job for a wealthy man. She figured including an additional cleaning job into her already tight schedule won’t kill her, so she consented and came to see him.

“Mrs. Salewa, I have just one rule,” Mr. Idemudia said to her, his oblong face stiffened.

She gulped loud like a stone falling into a lake then responded, “I’m listening, sir.”

They both stood opposite each other in the corridor, the air around them uptight as her boss unloaded his rule into her ears.

“Don’t go into the room at the end of this corridor. Take whatever you want from the refrigerator, prepare yourself a queen’s meal, and dance around in the house for all I care. But never enter—never open the door.”

Mrs. Salewa “Yes, sir. But—”

“But what?”

“Where’s the room I shouldn’t enter?”

He paid her silence as a reward for her question. He thought showing her the room would only heighten her curiosity and drive her towards ultimately going against his order. So he didn’t. He thought he was right, but life is unpredictable and things have a way of going south whether we want it or not.

Honks from a car accompanied by screeches pulled her back into the present.

It was as though Mr. Idemudia knew someone had stepped foot into the room. He drove into the compound hastily, kicking his car door wide open and darting into the house. Panting, he headed straight to the brown-door room, meeting Olawale’s mom before it.

“Oga, my son is inside. And the door won’t open.”

“I just went to buy some foodstuffs and you’ve already messed things up! Ehn!”

Mr. Idemudia turned, facing the room. He breathed softly, gripping the doorknob and twisting it carefully. Left. Right. Left. The door opened slowly, letting a frightening creak into the air. The room unhurriedly became lit, driving the darkness into nothingness. Inside, Olawale sat on the floor, legs folded, a broadened smile carved on his face. Two identical girls sat opposite him in white gowns, cackling. A board with snakes and ladders pictured on it laid in the space between them.

Mr. Idemudia and Olawale’s mom walked in, interrupting the children’s game. On seeing Mr. Idemudia, the girls stood up and ran toward him, yelling, “Daddy, you came early today and brought friends!”

Olawale’s mom launched toward Olawale, landing a strident smack on his left cheek. He winced.

“What are you doing here? No, tell me! I—” she paused.

Something caught her attention. Two brown coffins rested in the west end of the room. Both opened. Amid them, a small wooden being, a bowl before him. Just then, she realized the girls called him ‘Daddy’.

“Wait, Oga. I thought you said your kids passed away—that they drowned,” she said, her face heavy with confusion.

“Get out!”

“But, Oga…”

“If you tell anyone what you saw here, things won’t go well for you. Get out!”

Olawale and his mom hastened out of the room. And the door shut itself after them. 

*

Night fell quicker than expected. Olawale’s mom spent nearly an hour in the kitchen preparing dinner—eba and egusi. She exited the kitchen, carrying two bowls in her hands, and walked to the living room, where Olawale laid motionlessly on the sofa. The room was lit by a fluorescent light bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. She placed the bowls on the coffee table, and stared ahead, shaking her head at her quiescent son, whose mouth refused to stay sealed. She smacked his feet, calling his name as she sat on a small wooden chair adjacent to him.

“Wale, wake up. Wa jeun.”

But he didn’t even move a muscle.

“Wale! Wale!” She yelled, rising, her right hand ready for another smacking.

The light bulb in the living room flickered for a few seconds, then maintained an illuminated state. Olawale stood behind her, his face as pale as a blank page. He watched his mom, hit his body repeatedly as she cried his name, the sound filling up the room.

“Come, let’s play,” a voice emerged from behind.

Olawale turned around. Mr. Idemudia’s daughters stood a few inches before him, their round faces complemented with grins. One of the twins stretched her left hand forward, palm wide open, awaiting an interlocking. Olawale stared at her palm, then spun to face his mother.

“Let’s go, Wale.”

Olawale turned and grasped one of the twins’ outstretched hands, lacing his fingers with hers.


Praise Osawaru (he/him) is a writer and poet of Bini descent. A Best of the Net nominee, his works appear or are forthcoming in Blue Marble Review, Giallo Lit, Glass Poetry, Ice Floe Press, Kalahari Review, Rising Phoenix Review, and elsewhere. He’s a 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Finalist, and he was also shortlisted for the Babishai 2020 Haiku Award and the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize 2020. A Virgo and lover of the strange and speculative, he’s a prose reader for Chestnut Review. Find him on Instagram/Twitter: @wordsmithpraise.

Deborah Akubudike

ACAPELLA

//

Black crows singing symphonies/on poison oak trees under Autumn’s orange eyes/blending into a monochrome rainbow of heartfelt melody/reminds me of Papa’s lullaby that stuck to his tongue/

//

Pearls of sweat rolling down ice/Fall’s fallen the strands of glory on the empty head that lies still/cold becomes a reason to tell a story at the dimly lit living room with a dying fireplace/while watching Mama crotchet a blanket for already frozen body/hoping it melts autumn to spring/and brings back the crows of broken voices on blossoming trees/

//

Aching years have gone by and so have my voice/from screaming to find a silent tune that matches Papa’s unfinished lullaby/red flames from the black oak that turned poisoned/have engulfed the very last rhythm on my paralyzed beak/I sing tiredly/a distraught acapella echoing in thin sheets of air/refusing to fade/

//

It hurts yea/to forget the melody I was made from/yet ringing my voice loud emptily in dead silence/

//


Deborah Akubudike is a poet and songwriter with a wide view of the world from her solitary writing space. Her works have been featured in “The Maiden’s Anthology”, her poem “Another Chance” in “The Writer’s Pen Magazine (TWPM)” with theme “Break the Stigma”; still her journey continues as to find a nest for her poems to lay.

Alex Boyd

THE UNDERTOW OF THE WORLD

At four, what does my son dream about?
Chocolate letters, spiral swirls of crayon,
not the grasping fingers of a nebula
spider-crushed by a black hole, and not
the slow tumble of a political fiasco
or a furious hound on his scent wanting
to leave him flattened as a kipper. He lives
in hastily assembled shacks of harmony
as he’s neatly steered around all fiascos.
Carry me as much as you can, he tells me
on the slow, Saturday, routine drop down
a tree-lined street to the library and bakery.
There’s always the next tempest, and hope
it can be made manageable. As a boy,
my father and family left the dining room
right before the ceiling came down. Now,
climate disaster is a dull, elusive moth
that comes through the room every day
while I live with my son, who wakes us,
one night to say he dreamed his teacher
held his head, so that he couldn’t move it.


Alex Boyd has written for publications such as The Globe and Mail and Taddle Creek magazine. He helped establish Best Canadian Essays, co-editing the first two collections of work selected from Canadian magazines. His poetry collections are Making Bones Walk (2007) winner of the Gerald Lampert Award, and more recently The Least Important Man (2012). In 2018 his first novel was published: Army of the Brave and Accidental, described by Canadian Notes & Queries as “timely, original and profound.”

‘Spring Backward, Fall Forward’ by Angelica Whitehorne

Winter is coming. Your Dog opens his mouth and the song of a bird comes out. Every year he becomes a sparrow and flies to Florida to flounce Snow. Snow is a cold-hearted woman who had a deadly ex-relationship with your dog. This year, when he takes flight he takes you along on his back and you feel like the favorite child. You grab onto his flank, sit unsaddled with your head in the clouds, for once head in the clouds is an achievement, not an insult towards your tendency for distraction.

You and your Dog spend the winter sipping mimosas and playing tennis and already you know this will be one of your fondest seasons. 

“This will be one of my fondest seasons,” you tell your Dog and he chirps his agreement.

Months later, Spring, who also happens to be your closest childhood friend, doesn’t show up for the fourth year in a row, letting the slick-eyed Winter slip into the burning, flirting mess of Summer. You see on social media that Spring is in Detroit at a music festival in a light coat with a blunt in one hand and a lover in the palm of her other.

For once you are not offended, you sit in Summer’s lap and flirt back. The sweat shining over your peach fuzz is like the green light of a traffic signal and your laugh is wide, exposing the deep of your molars where the mimosas have taken mortgages out on your enamel. 

It is Fall when you trip in your new plaid skirt, and your butt cheeks reveal themselves to the autumnal breeze and everyone sees you have a tattoo portrait of Spring on the left flab. Spring, who still hasn’t called you back but who looks too good in pink ink to get a cover up done. 

You’ve scraped your knees and your elbows and all up your back and you bleed the colors of changing leaves, red and orange and a little brown too. For once you are not embarrassed, you fix your skirt and run your fingers through the blood puddles like you are playing in a sandbox.

It is Winter again when your Dog says his back is too old to carry you this year, but you can take a flight and meet him down there if you’d like. He knows that you have an allergy to metal and small airplane T.V.s. And you know that really he wants to sit and play poker with friends his age, so instead you shrink down and sit in a hot cup of tea in your cold room and trace the band-aids you’ve stuck on yourself to stop the bleeding last season and you decide to start taking care of yourself (for once.)

And now it would be Spring again if Spring came, but she never does, so it is the breath after Winter and before Summer texts you to hook up, when you start peeling off band-aid after band-aid from your body, dropping the pus filled cotton to mingle with your carpet.

And for once the band-aids do not gnash teeth with your skin underneath. They are taking flight like retired dogs and for once the wound has crusted over into baby’s skin which looks up at you with your eyes and drools a little and for once you aren’t missing or waiting on anyone and you feel that for once a new season has come, one you have yet to name or get to know or be betrayed by. 


By day Angelica Whitehorne writes for the Development department of a refugee organization in New York. By night she writes her poetry and stories with her 10 plants as backdrop and her future on her tongue. She has forthcoming work in the North Dakota Quarterly, Ruminate, Hooligan Magazine, Oyster River Pages, Magnolia Review, Wingless Dreamer, Door Is A Jar, Crack the Spine, Dissenting Voices, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Neon Mariposa and Amethyst Review.

A Poem by Paul Chuks

Let Me Show You How To Grieve

After reading Praise Osawaru.

X
Get into your room/
Pale its light into darkness till it’s another evening in the medieval period/
Sit on anywhere bed chair floor.

X
Stroll into your memory – where fossils of your loved ones come handy/
Your mother slept & made history’s longest slumber/
Your sister died from a sanguine gas attack/
Their shadows now lurk around the walls of your memory like the seven planets does around the
sun/

X
Launch your voice at them/
Permit yourself to believe they can hear you/
Tell them the world dropped on your shoulders the moment they followed the grim reaper & say that
your bones now suffer osteoporosis/
Give them seven days ultimatum to squander in absentia & pierce back into
the cosmic curtain to prepare that sweet soup one more time.

X
Stroll back into reality[your room]/
Cry, knowing it’s not possible. Cry. Wail. Weep. Slap the wall. Cry. Wipe
your left cheek. Cry.


Paul Chuks (He/Him)is a Nigerian poet, writer and song writer studying at the University of Benin, Edo state, Nigeria. He has appeared or is forthcoming in streetcakemag, kalaharireview, Logicneuro, Afritondo, Tralitmag and was recently shortlisted for The49thstreet’s top ten poets in Nigeria. When Chuks is not reading or writing(songs), he’s criticising the hiphop game or he’s mimicking Michael Jackson.

‘For I Have Sinned’ by Bryan Joe Okwesili

It is a cold Wednesday morning. The harmattan breeze settles over the city like the heavens have come to meet the earth. It touches the earth and everything is brown and dry and cold and more brown. It is mid-November but the people on the streets have begun to talk about Christmas, its merry moments and how everything skips past with each bottle of beer. You want Christmas too. Your mother says Christmas has a distinct smell, and that fried beef tastes better then. You inhale but dust fills your nostrils. You put a palm over your nose and quicken your steps. You must meet God and tell everything.

The church is a warm embrace when you enter. It is like heaven doesn’t touch here. A statue of a bleeding Jesus stares down at you, eyes sullen from pain. The pews shimmer under the tiny bright lights on the ceiling. In a dim corner is the confessional; a space where trapped sins roam. You walk up to it, your heart clinging to your throat, ready to jump out. 

You cross yourself, then you kneel. There is a purple curtain before you, keeping you from seeing the priest. You wonder if he can see you, if he has the same clenching tightness in his stomach. 

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is three months since my last confession.” You pause. You cannot feel your tongue. “I am a student of Biology at the university,” you continue, “This is my confession.”

You spend a few minutes going over trivial acts you knew wouldn’t count as sin; a mild quarrel, a swear, a midnight erection, but you said them anyway, because the things you truly wished to say were broken vowels, refusing to stick back together.

“Is that all?” An airy baritone arrests you. 

The church is suddenly hot. You can feel beads of sweat running down your thighs. You remember your holiday in Kano, last year, and how the sun there was always a boiling orange. When your mother asked you if you would like to visit there again, you told her that Kano felt like hell, but a busy hell. She laughed.

“Can you know a thing and never speak of it?” You ask, peering into the curtain.

A chuckle sieves through. 

“I am under oath,” he says. You bite your lips. Of course he was under oath, you have heard about the Seal of Confession.

You drag in air, a little too much, and as quick as you blink, you say, “I lust after a boy.” There is silence from the other side. You can feel air leaving your body through your ears. “Father, I look at him the same way I look at girls, and I think of us entangled in bed, naked.” More silence. “Tell me what I should do to stop this. I know this is not of God. It is the devil, Father. It is him.”

You try not to cry. You want him to say something. Anything.

The last time you touched yourself, you were alone in the bathroom, trying to hold a mental picture of him in your head. You saw his face, then his lips, and when his butt swayed in your head, you stopped and let the soap slip. That night, you invited your girlfriend over and while you were inside her, you told her you would write a poem about slippery spiders. She stared at you and for a moment, you thought she would scream and run out. The next day, she told you you were weird. It was not a compliment.

“I once loved a boy in the way one loves a girl too,” the priest says, finally. Your heart skips, a painful thud. You want to snatch the curtain away and slap the priest. You do not know why. 

“How did you overcome it? How did you win against the devil?” You ask.

He chuckles again.

“There is no devil. It is natural. One can only manage it, for love is of God. And God is love.”

“How do I manage it, this love?”

Right. Wrong. Just. Evil. The priest is saying so many things you do not understand. You nod. ‘Love is a thing with faces’this is how you would write it in your diary. Or perhaps, a poem.

As you step outside the church, the sun sits in the sky blurred by the harmattan fog. The earth is now warm, heaven ascends slowly, you can see the full stretch of palm trees in the distance. 

You walk to a corner beside the ixora hedges in the church yard and remove your phone from your pocket to call your mother. You tell her you can smell Christmas and that you can’t wait to see her again. Then, you begin to cry. She doesn’t tell you to stop. She only says, she understands. You cry the more knowing you cannot know a thing and never speak of it.


Bryan Joe Okwesili is a chocolate-loving realist. A poet and storyteller keen on telling diverse African stories. His art have appeared and are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Brittle paper, Lunaris, Expound, Kalahari review, African writers and elsewhere. He is currently a student of law at the University of Calabar, Calabar.

Yusuf Akman

Like Someone in Love

so much for banking on
what’s taken for granted –
floating at the bed of a deflowered giant mussel,
the foam-tinged slut’s wool
occupying the corners of my emptiness;
I wet my moss-coated lips
in the remnants of your salt –

ah!
to be the same boy
who used to spread his legs
to be tidal
and feeling your withdrawal,
while listening to “Blonde” by Frank –
o/shhhhhhh/n –

a wave
engulfs
in my head –

then I recall the cursed early morning
heavy with silvery spring
there the clouds tricked our eyes
and we laughed, and we laughed like fools
with the quiver at the tip of our noses,
sun-kissed screens under our lids
mistaking a disaster
with what it is not –

waves
loop
in my stomach –

Amphitrite (my trident):
hold my hair back
while I’m bringing him back
out of this maelstrom.


Yusuf Akman was born in Denizli, Turkey. They are a senior philosophy student at Boğaziçi University whose literary focus revolves around what having a queer identity in Turkey is like. Their works appeared in the online journals Trampset, Raised Brow Press and Resurrection Magazine. Twitter: @Akman_Yusuf_

‘The Return’ by Kim Fahner

The boat left the pier and headed out beyond the bay, to open ocean. So far to go before they reached Ireland’s Eye, Maura thought, as she pulled her sunglasses from the swirl of her hair down over her face, to cover her eyes. In her mind, she was Grace Kelly, but a Grace Kelly without a floaty chiffon scarf billowing in the wind. The image was ruined when the wind took her hair, shoved a stray lock into her mouth. She grimaced. This was not the cinematic affair she had intended, booking the trip off the coast of Newfoundland to return something that needed returning.

The captain looked archetypal, all seaworthy and salty. She squinted through the sunlight to see if there was a stray whale off in the distance. No whales, but one errant iceberg. 

She yelled across at Brian. “Can we go out there? To see it?” He didn’t seem to hear her so she pushed the sunglasses back up onto her head, as if that would help—to make eye contact—and then yelled, more loudly, and much more slowly. “Brian! Can. We. Go. Out. There?! To see the iceberg?”  

“No way, missus. That’s further out than you’d think, that one. If we did that, I couldn’t take you out to the island to see where your people lived. So. Iceberg or island. Your choice.” He tilted his head, smirked. 

She tried again. “If I gave you more money? Would you take me out there, too? Could we go there first, and then to the island on the way back?” He could hear her, she knew. He was just being an asshole.

She tried again, tapping at the bohemian bag that she’d slung diagonally across her chest. “For. More. Money?” She smiled, maybe even thought about loosening the top two buttons on her shirt. She wanted to see the iceberg, as well as the island, and she wasn’t one for taking no for an answer. 

Brian shook his head, sadly. “Nope. No doin’ today.” He looked skyward, searching the cloudless sky. “Might be some bad weather coming…” 

In her mind, Maura rolled her eyes, but in reality she just put her hand up to her neck, then dropped it down to loosen the top two buttons. Shameless. Watched his eyes drop down, then slide back up to meet hers. Her grandmother would scold her, if she could see Maura now. Such a hussy.

“Listen. Brian. I’ll give you more money. Out there to the iceberg, then back to the island.” Batted her eyelashes, and then patted the bag again.

He waffled, looking at his watch. Pretended to check the time. Cleared his throat. Yelled at her. “Okay, okay. A hundred more, and you’ll see the iceberg. But we aren’t staying long…” 

Maura turned then, face towards the sea, so that she could pretend he wasn’t in the boat with her. Listened to the sound of the boat’s motor roar, the way the water churned itself up ‘something fierce,’ as her grandmother would’ve said. Her hand drifted to the bag that sat in her lap. Felt it in her gut, then in her heart.

Brian knew, he did, why she was coming out here, to the island. She’d told him when she’d called. A friend of a friend of a family friend had connected her. “No worries, Maura. He’ll take you out to the spot, put the boat against the rocks, and let you scatter them on the land. No worries at all.” 

She looked off to the right, saw the island passing by, and felt her heart sink. They’d left there about eight years before she’d been born. She’d never seen it, but only heard stories of what life had been like there before they’d been forced out, to the mainland. Fishing, some gardens leading down to the water, the church, and the black rock in the tickle, the one you had to steer around to get into the harbour. She’d only seen the pictures, so it all seemed unreal. 

Brian yelled at her over the motor. “See that? Over there? The eagle?!” He slowed the boat.

She turned, then, but couldn’t see. She shook her head. “No. Where?!” 

He pointed with his arm, with his whole body almost. “Follow where my fingers go. There. On that tall point of land? It’s up there.”

She caught it then: strong, carved almost, and somehow defiant. 

Brian yelled. “They used to watch their littlest ones, you know?” 

“What?” Maura yelled back, confused.

“The eagles used to swoop down on the cod, and then one or two took a small lamb or chicken. But then the islanders were worried about the children…” He shook his head, his eyes going wide. 

“Kids? Eagles taking children?!” 

“Never let them on that side of the island alone. Always with an adult in tow.” He pulled his sunglasses over his eyes now, ending the conversation, and revved the motor again. “Just eagles here now…”

They got to the iceberg before the half hour was up. He slowed the boat, killed the motor, let them drift at a safe distance. 

“Do you want to put some of them here, then, too?” His voice was quiet now, uncertain.

Maura shifted in her seat, closed her eyes, thought about it. Felt the ice breathing next to her. She shivered. “Yes. So much of her came from here that some of her should be here again.” 

Brian nodded, looked away to give her privacy. She unzipped the bag, pulled out a pill bottle. Everything was dust, including memory. Maura steadied her legs, leaned over the edge of the boat, and emptied half of the bottle into the sea. 

She blew a kiss to the waves. 

She heard Brian clear his throat, anxious to go. She nodded, sat back down. He started the motor. 

What was left, Maura would scatter on the island. 

What was left, the eagles would help carry up and away.


Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. Her latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She was the fourth poet laureate of Greater Sudbury (2016-18). Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and is the Ontario representative for The Writers’ Union of Canada (2020-22). She may be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com

‘A Hibiscus for Adam’ by Timi Sanni

Hibiscus

I watch Hawwa water the hibiscus in the garden this morning like she had been doing for a week now, every day since Adam died.

She said it was her way of remembering him, of not fully losing him.

“Uncle liked hibiscuses,” she said. “He lined the fence of his home in Lagos with it.” A day after news got to us that Adam had died, she had defied the lockdown order to trek two miles to the park to cut a hibiscus stalk. She planted it by her window.

I did not tell her that Adam loved books and writing more than he could ever love a flower, that the hibiscus planted in his home were genetically modified species from his lab. Telling her would mean sharing our little secret—mine and Adam’s.

Manuscript

A month before he contracted the virus. He gave me a dog-eared jotter. A manuscript of a book he was writing. There was no explanation.

We had been sitting together in the balcony of his house gazing at the stars in silence, that very silence of his I loved, because it spoke more words than his talking did. When he stood suddenly and went inside, I was surprised. I thought of anything that could have upset him in that tiny moment. ”Was it something from work that he remembered?”

It turned out to be nothing. He came back with the book and handed it to me. He clasped my hand in his over it for what seemed like an eternity. When he finally spoke, it was only two words. “Forgive me.”

The book turned out to be a manuscript of stories from his life. It was mostly sad. At first I had mistaken it for a novel, but when I got to page three and read the part where the sixteen year old boy, playing football in a street tournament had fallen right before the opponent’s keeper, clutching his chest as he wheezed, only one shot between him and a goal, I recognized him immediately. He had told me this story before when he was telling me about his asthma.

I had asked about the small spray he always carried and he laughed and told me this story. I didn’t recognize an inhaler.

The story didn’t seem really significant at that time, but in the manuscript it read that he was the best player in the whole town with a promising future as a footballer. The nation’s football team were going to sign him, but that day in the field was the last time he played ball. His doctor said he shouldn’t, if he wished to live long.

Void

I read and reread every bit of the book, my only way of understanding the parts of Adam he never let me see, the ones he hid behind a façade of silence and goofy smiles. But every time I reached the end of the manuscript, a gaping void threatened to swallow me in its incompleteness. I wanted to know what had happened after we said our last byes in front of the university gate three months ago. I wanted to know what had happened in the taxi as he travelled through the night. I wanted to know his thoughts when he first started feeling the symptoms of the virus. I wanted to share his last moment in the early hours of that Friday morning when his soul finally betrayed his body. It was painful to imagine that he died alone.

Pain

When Mama came home two days ago on her leave from the hospital where she and the other nurses and health workers were working around the clock to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, I listened with all my heart to her stories. I had been trying to grasp onto anything that could help me understand how Adam had felt in his last moments. Mama’s stories wore a garment of pain. She said for the first time, she couldn’t test a patient outside of a fully covered apparel and a screen. She couldn’t touch a patient and tell him, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ She said even with the measures put in place, with the media representation of health workers as heroes, it was difficult not to feel the anxiety. The fear was palpable in the air of the health centre like a billowing fabric.

In the early days, before the reality of the virus had fully dawned on everyone. The NCDC report had a certain kind of distance to me. It was hard trying to put a picture to the words and numbers. But now, I live knowing that Adam’s short life is summarized in a number on the death column.

Closure

I call on everything I knew about Adam, every memory we shared to fill the space in my heart. I imagine myself lying in a hospital bed in a health centre in Lagos, a cannula on my nose, the sound of my breath wheezing through the ventilator. A plethora of emotion are running amok within me. I can almost smell death.

I imagine him replaying the memories of his whole life. Did he think of me? The moments we shared? I tell myself that he did, that he thought of me a lot.

I blink the tears clouding my vision and watch Hawwa for some time. Then quickly, I wipe my eye with the back of my hand. She shouldn’t see me cry. I join her by the hibiscus and she hands me the watering can to heap more soil to its root.

I tilt the can as the flower bobs under the touch of the water, I remember Adam’s favorite prayer and mutter “Amen.”


Timi Sanni is a Nigerian writer and literary enthusiast. His works have been published or are forthcoming in various literary journals like Radical Art Review, African Writers, Rather Quiet, Praxis Magazine and elsewhere. He recently won the SprinNG Poetry Contest and is the recipient of the Fitrah Review Prize for Fiction 2020. He is an editor at Kalopsia lit.