In This Heart You Burn & Other Poems

Precious Okpechi

the poet dreams

everything will go backwards.
& you, a perplexed observer, will see: the leaves
rock the wind, the roots hold the earth,
see the sun hover above the white clouds, & the waters
no longer occupy most of earth’s vastness.
tumultuous as times when no one thing falls back down,
you will be dipped in quicksand, & the doves
will dive and have the last say on every dead, the dogs
will bark at the houses that shelter them,
& the leash will belong to the child. you
will have to be still. you will have to pray. but god will be full
of neglect. there will be no ark – no one drowns
save for you; no one will know everything went backwards.

still the wind

under these shades i walked the other day, the air was dry,
paused: the branches, leaves, & petals in the afterstate of
quivering – calm only a raging storm can leave in its aftermath.

to write this poem, i slowed my breathing, zoned out noise,
felt nothing but my mind vibrate the words in my bones –
this is the nearest i have been to stillness.

in times past, i have been suspended
object, i have hung objects, held out my hands
empty and flailing before me like handless

sleeves in the wind. what i wouldn’t give to be one
with stillness, to be the dying frame of a warrior
amidst the chaos of war, a tent unfazed in a desert storm.

in this heart you burn

you have loved me with the instability
of new glasses: clear eyes, and staggering

feet. adjusting late – to the sky and
earth of my world. you have looked upon me

with amber eyes and hued the green
plantations of my heart, opened one end

of its drum, and denied me my grey in peace.
now, everything is plangent and pierces.

you have situated me here: at this peak,
at the edge of nowhere, surrounded by cliffs

and hills and steeps. there’s a temple
in the corner, with bells hanging down its pillars.

my wailing voice winds through air like
a hurricane, and the temple bells resound my prayers

until they’re deafening. see me flaring bombs
to the sky, hoping my heart will pick this signal

and extend me a ladder. for the first time
fireworks are less gorgeous – they are going to

fall back down and torch me new with burns.
what waste it is, to love a moon without its core.

Precious Okpechi studies Biochemistry at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. His works appear in Palette Poetry, The Shore, Kissing Dynamite, Brittle Paper. He is Managing Editor at 20.35 Africa.


*Image by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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