Cargo of absence
“Someone else dies and it must be / a poem. Maybe with blood. Maybe screams. Maybe”
— Gaia Rajan, Inside every poem, you can hear muffled screams
Maybe just to put pen to paper, I call upon more
loss than I can handle. Sure there is a poem lurking
beneath each gentle stroke of her hair, but imagine
the verse when the air is there no longer. The trees
sway and hum a beautiful tune with the wind
but few know of the dance of deserts, where life learns
to swirl and tumble without the miracle of water.
Maybe I am but a carrier of a thousand losses.
Some mine, others I have picked up myself
from the beds of people whose names I also count
as losses. I feel like the ocean. Not its beauty, its wildness
or its ability to keep moving. But the way it oracles loss
and dissolves memory like a grain of salt or my uncle
over the edge of that boat. & ever since, when I summon his face,
his smile is never complete, his eyes never bright enough.
Almost as if the closer my memory gets to perfect, the farther
he goes away from the depths. Almost as if to snatch him
from death. & my arms are not long enough or my tongue
not fluid enough. Or I haven’t learnt to swim well enough.
To harness the waves of memory that I become it completely.
I have recently been studying the poetry of wounds;
- How the body’s first response to loss is bleed. Weep.
- How the perfect symmetry of the body is not appreciated until a dent – which is to say
that a wound is necessary: a hole in the earth waiting for new seeds, rain, flowers.
- How it seems that blood sits behind the door of the skin, constantly calling the blade to
puncture the solitude.
‘Matter can neither be created or destroyed’
For every person I lose, I feel a weight within.
Someone said the memory resides in your bones
like an anchor, restraining you from following
their footprints to the edge of the water. Like an ache.
& I cannot walk. Give me a staff or a pen. Something
I can walk with or write myself into a new page.
You always hold back a tear when you read my poems.
Almost as if you can taste the hollow in my chest, the smoke
in my mouth. I am not burning. I am already ash. The fire
has moved on. Hold my hand. I cannot promise forever.
I do not know if I have enough words left in me to last that long.
But for your sake I’ll write a new poem tomorrow.
Don’t worry I’ll put fewer words in it:
- No ‘flower’. You cannot fight death with a dying wreath.
- No ‘rain with dark-coloured rainbows’. I am not going to overdescribe my pain, lest it
become whole, living, absolute. Just a box is fine. With four black-clad men lower me in
and complete the rhyme.
Salam Wosu is a Chemical engineering graduate from Nigeria whose poetry has been featured in various literary magazines and has been shortlisted for the Korean Nigerian poetry award (2017 and 2019).
Uncovered logs from the distant past and the future beyond.