From a Survivor in a Garden of Bones & Other Poems

Martins Deep

From a Survivor in a Garden of Bones

The shots missed my body
to deafen the walls

their ears bleeding midnight monologues
till i stood knee-deep in it

you moved closer, wading through
to pull the trigger yet again

but i trapped a butterfly
straying from your gun
                shaped after the mouth of your blind father
                chewing coals from your bloodied hands
                to spit on your star

See, i’ve moulted my skin
to get to this layer spirits wear
to walk through a warzone

carrying flowers only pollinated by bullets,
in a garden of bones.

for a/the boy who became smoke

It was this place of splintered shells;

of song sprouting through razor cuts,
at the farmyard

there you were, green-fingered boy, roused in the mould of awe,
in dry season.

Quickly, the days went by, and
as the yellow sun behind two travellers,

an imagery of silhouettes parting,

you eyed elsewhere, uprooting feet from mama’s lap,
from nest, from warmth.

I recall when you asked for my favourite poem by Mary Oliver,
and shredded the pages into pa’s smoking pipe

you said it was your first try,
amazed that it helped you sleep

that it helped you raise a smokescreen between you
and the carnivorous shadows following your trails

i saw in the smoke a butterfly, fluttering in slow motion
you said it must be the last of the ones you never felt in your stomach for any girl

you swore smoking was the only way your mouth
could play holy censer, not just ‘an opening’

how God could inhale your incense and be ‘Most High’

on the veranda, you wrote me a poem,
knitting wisps of smoke with your sighs

i trap the last line between my palms,
and sniff teardrops as ellipsis where the threnody failed to end.

Beside your grave, i puff my first smoke,
and music notations float out of my nostrils,
stained with the strangeness

of taste for/thirst after a self not tempted to want less

of a body simply  d r i f t i n g  away… like smoke,

not saying goodbye,
and just going the way of forgotten dreams.

With your suicide note, i wrap withered petals
of this bougainvillea at your graveside,

inhale enough smoke to choke my windpipes
till i cough out a deathwish
the hawk that took you away
dropped into my throat when i screamed at God
for letting you go the way of forgotten dreams

like     s


On the floor where i wept
at the sculptured feet of St Mary, ants gather.

i watch them carry granules of sugar
into a hole. i trace their trail to
the shell of a 12-year-old
cursed dumb for seeing through dark clouds
God as a shy, navelless boy,
nursing an asteroid wound,
bleeding green over his colouring book
till it became a rainforest

i leave my door open for only things
with teeth sharpened on rose petals

like a mother’s ghost, in a jail,
humming cradlesongs to her grown son
who pushed her down the balcony
into the mouth of the grave

somewhere, there’s a boy on a cliff

grown only fragile enough to  b r e a k
with a lyric that ends with  a  semicolon

Martins Deep (he/him) is a Nigerian poet, photographer, digital artist, and currently an undergraduate student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming in, 20.35 Africa, FIYAH, Cutbank Literary Journal, Brittle Paper, Barren Magazine, Agbowó, Rough Cut Press, and elsewhere.


*Image by Sam Rupsa on Unsplash

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