Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 4



Self-portrait as Black Martyr

Chiwenite Onyekwelu


—for George Floyd & the others.

The chubby dark layers of your face
are histories sunk too deep
and drooping. You much too gross for
      corsage.
You a fetus resisting abortion. You a
      siren away
from gunshot. You Lamar Smith, the
       too bright noon his
body dropped dead on a courthouse lawn.
Or the eyes that saw & saw nothing.

History is what fats you up.
      Go to the mirror,
see yourself for yourself. You who is
       too proud
& plumpfaced & beautiful too. Alabama
River holds your belly-folds.
Your calories empty into fluid space. Or
     drown on arrival,
like Willie Edwards Jr forced to jump those
    kilometers down.

Let us accept that martyrdom is only a
      kind word for casualty.
In which case your stretch marks open
    backwards into a gun’s mouth &
the hangman's noose & Martin Luther King &
ain’t that a nigger lying over there?

Still, you hold a record for making gods.
      Even in recent history,
o glorious plumpface, the men who kill you
do so with their knees bowed to the
       ground.



The line "Too gross for corsage" was taken from a poem by Kemi Alabi.



Chiwenite Onyekwelu: “I am a Nigerian poet and essayist. My poetry has appeared on America Media, Rough Cut, Isele, and elsewhere. I was a finalist for the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of Jack Grapes Poetry Prize 2020, as well as runner up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020. I serve as Associate Editor at the School of Pharmacy Agulu, where I'm an undergraduate.”




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