Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 4



Tim Fab-Eme


What We Could Have Become

A palm squirrel jumps a foot away
struggling to cup two ripe palm fruits;
her mate becomes lullaby on the lips
of an old stutterer glinting the eyes
of failed journeys; her claws cast love
as chips of a decaying dream like
these maps of furuncles we call Africa.

Your father’s God, his armed angels knock
us out whenever we ask for leadership;
his house, heaven—hi-tech dolls here, strange
cars there; kitchens loaded like cannons birth
fetes every day—you can’t recall a time you
knelt before the God that made hunger.

Sometimes I drink a jar of kaikai
to your health and to my death,
to my children’s blood spilled as red-carpet
for you and those who’ll come after;
I mustn’t outgrow the height of gravediggers.

Here in the delta we celebrate death:
it’s the only way to live without
the sighs of missing paradise or running
from the hell of a beloved God.

My daughter says, mom, dad said we
own gas wells, diamonds and oil blocks;

and I hid this face of wildflowers

in a smile, clasp her tiny hand,
touched the globe and we slowly traced

all the beauties we could have become.




My Father Kills Life

Don’t envy him, mom cries out
and life becomes heaps of ugly
things, her rough-edged words crashing hard
on the soft head of a newborn.
He poses like an old kestrel,
winks at me and murmurs loud:
follow me, waif; kiss the world
and you’ll outgrow your mom’s nightmares.


He dips hands in his pockets
like a fisherman catching blue crabs
between the prop roots of mangrove
trees crumbling from crude oil crimes.
I stretch my hand, expecting money;
no, it’s a bunch of keys
he shakes it as a bell

and my hand falls like palm
fronds hurt by the harsh harmattan.
Outside, three girls shout, Young Chief
his new name—we know another—
he’s sloughed it as dead skin
of pythons returning to the beginning.

He croaks again, bangs the door
and hope crashes with the mud-grains
falling off from his Testoni shoes;
they embrace him like climbing ropes
before he roars his limousine away.

I reach the window—the name
we call the aperture that tells
the naughty Sun to ridicule us;
I feel shackles on my shoulders—

they’re mom’s hands forged as steel
bars by our spill-prone cassava farms.
Don’t ever follow him, she says;

he’s a murderer. I whisper, bunkerer.
Mom disagrees and twirls me around:

Your father kills me, you, life.



Tim Fab-Eme: "I enjoy playing with poetic forms and the themes of identity and the environment. I love fishing in the Niger Delta estuaries and gardening; I hope to revisit my abandoned prose manuscripts. I'm published by The Malahat Review, New Welsh Review, Magma; apt, The Fiddlehead and FIYAH, Reckoning and Planet in Crisis Anthology, etc. I studied engineering at the Niger Delta University, and am presently pursuing a BA in English Studies at the University of Port Harcourt. I live in Rivers."




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