He Was a Bird
I'll cry you an ocean
& drown you in my tears
feeding the blackness of your skin
to a bloating shine, oil on water,
skin of furs, eyes dancing to the
tunes of loss, of loss, of loss
a boy disappears
last seen at the font
of saint Joseph's chapel
dipping his soul in water
Amen & Amen.
his story was written under
papers, under trees, they said
he saw God, they said he flew
into heaven, like Elijah.
but in all truth, slim boys like him
were Enoch: untold lives
summarised in full stops & commas,
dotting on the bedspread of Methuselah,
giving thanks on the head of ravens.
his mother knew this.
from her breasts
& in her heart, she had the story
twice in each life
she burned her prayers on
incense papers & sent doves
guiding her cigarettes' smoke to heaven.
she wanted a girl and God gave
her a girl in a robe.
she loved her by her robe.
too, & when she grew, she was
a boy with eyes like rings &
flesh like banana rinds, breaking hearts
like girls were glasses & boys were snails.
like all things were fragile & he was the perfect exception.
was he a saint?
that is no question.
they came for him, the broken things,
& bundled him into
a prayer, a lost language.
they filled him up with
their sins but forgot to
push him into the chapel that when he fluttered
his wings dusted themselves unto the rivers
and built a light into heaven, hips swaying,
a dance to the Gods of both sides.
at last this was his freedom.
when he was found,
he was already lost,
a vomit from the river
a thing seen with covered nostrils
they said he shone like the sun,
his head sandy and his face a story
written by imperfect fingers. he lay there
with a smile. They called him Jonah,
but sadly he was just a dead queen
no kiss this time, no waking up.
so they plucked out his eyes
and loved it sadly ever after.
Nwanne Agwu: “I live in Nigeria. My work has appeared on Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, The Revolution Relaunch and elsewhere.”