Aubade to Transfiguration in a House of Ghosts & Other Poems

Chisom Okafor

my sex drive as basis for other interpretations of newton’s laws of motion
after Chaun Ballard and Itiola Jones

swing low, sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home
─ believed to have been originally composed by Wallace Willis, circa 1840.

first law: a body at rest tends to remain at rest, a body in motion tends to remain in motion at a constant speed, in a straight line, unless acted upon, by an outside force

you ask       where i’ve been wounded       in the past
shut       the door behind you       here       just at the intersection
of collarbones       a tendon has come apart       three ribs broken
last night       at a raided party       fistfight       just before daybreak
ankle bone       displaced in a stampede       jagged cranium
forced open by       the police       at a sanctuary       stripped
of its sanctity       jawbone smashed       shoulder blade pressed
against    a protesting wall       a fortnight ago at       a mall
here       does this put       an end to your       curiosity

second law: in an inertial frame of reference, the vector sum of the forces f on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration a of the object (ie; f=ma, where m is  constant) 

Take f to be       an armed       mob       laying siege at sundown
by the pavement       down benson street       waiting 
for my coming out       or a friend       who invites you over    
and invites       the police too       or the receptionist       who says     sirs
two men    are forbidden       to share       a room here
take a to be       acceleration of       my body       due
to gravitation       further propelled by       my father’s
eyes       bloodshot       unforgiving as i have       now become
and unbowed too       for pressure makes       all things       whole again
and m       a persistent departure       of my body       salt of the earth
in osmosis       feeding on its own tissues       to survive       a long fast

third law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction which is to say that when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body

all the rooms       i ever fled from       tell me       that grief       is a last
applause of colours       shed from       a cherry blossom in wilt  
all the people      i ever saw       all the laws       of physics i ever       
committed to       memory
all broken fingers       porcupine­pierced flesh       swollen feet
i carry with me       in this journey       of endless       distances.

Aubade to Transfiguration in a House of Ghosts

Kaya now. Got to have kaya now,
Got to have Kaya now,
For the rain is falling.
─ Bob Marley.  

At first light, I wake to find you 
breathing softly into my chest, 
you, whose blocks of breaths 
spread like peppercorn seeds
drawing sunrays unto themselves,  
here in the weak light of morning.

I freed a sea turtle trapped under a rock
by the waterside in my sleep, I long to tell you, 
for the joy of remembering
the tender touch of things that leave 
and are never seen again.

Last week, a girl left me for dead under her crushing weight, 
and in the time that passed
between my dying and her departure,
she sighed to the Lord above and flung 
a grenade of curses underneath:
‘you need prayers,’ she said, ‘not a woman’s touch.’
Outside, a volley of heavy raindrops splashed 
on my windowsill, 
to punctuate Marley’s serenade 
on the stereo:
I want to give you some good, good loving.
Splash of rainwater.
Turn your light down low.
Splash.  Another splash.

Dear Lover;
I’m still gathering your breaths in sequences
of experiments with question marks for endpoints. 
Is my queerness something to be wished away?
Do I become dead to you when I say that?

Here, dangling from my left thumb, is the key 
to a forgotten door.
Here. Find me. 
Unlock me. 
Resurrect me.

Throat Song

  • In this room is a body in plasters and scaffolding acting out a script. In this script my shapeshifting starts, rises like dragonsmoke. 
  • My sequined boots have known this route by many names as they have known pathways well-kept from light and sound. 
  • My hands on this windowpane are talismans for survival, which is why they bend in lieu of cracking, 
  • which is why I wait for an imaginary lover to emerge at nightfall like the builders on the other side, 
  • which is why I wait to spit out this gnawing song stuck in my throat, to burst into a symphony of rapid music as offering to his entrance, 
  • while fists of evening air drift in to paper these naked walls, dancing to their own tunes in the dark: a song I long to sing to this jaded body, open as a canyon.
  • My mouth ─ a river’s tributary ─ tells you how the mason rediscovers loneliness in the song of a bird at close of work, sliding into the sunset; 
  • in the eyes of fish caught in a net singing dirges to the last flicker of candlelight they’ll ever see; 
  • in the peaks and valleys of an electrocardiogram bearing terrible news;
  • This is how you long for love at nightfall while a wishbone grows where a lover should be. 
  • I could be a Rembrandt, or tucked away in a Picasso vignette, seeking everything time after time, yet finding nothing

Chisom Okafor, a Nigerian poet, nutritionist and dietitian, was also a Finalist for the Gerald Kraak Prize of 2019 and presently edits the Libretto Chapbook Series.


*Illustration: ‘Cost of Our Abomination’ by Sef Adeola.

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