Nostalgia for Samsara & Other Poems

Pamilerin Jacob

Nostalgia for Samsara

I prefer tension over attention.
Daily, the half-light of memory dims.

      The half-light of memory dims, daily,
      & out of the silence, I moulded a bird.

Inside your silence, I became a bird 
perched on the riddle of coming & going.

     You were a riddle coming & going
     as you wished from my head like an old lyric.

I pick my wishes from lines of old lyrics,
& will not be removed from compassion.

     Christ healed others only when moved with compassion,
     sometimes spitting into the wound.

You must miss it, spitting into my wound.
I prefer tension over attention.

April Nocturne

April is leaking again like a child
nicked in the knees by concrete.
Pollen & mucus, irises & ixoras 

pouring out of a darkness so holy
it deserves praise. Now the tides
& their swell, almost rational –

a wet determination
of erasure & sand, nostalgia & noon-

light. The moon, somewhere behind
the curtain of unknowing, jealous
of the swish-wash of water against heels.

The earth tumbles like a jug
caught between elbows, & the hills – slow
moving giants on a pilgrimage to valley-hood.

Every year, I try to understand all these –
the bubble of yellow overhead greening the
yard, the interlude of pigeons purifying Sango-Ota –

but I fail, being lower than they
in the hierarchy of glory.

Owo Nocturne 

On June 5, 2022, armed men stormed St. Francis Xavier
Catholic Church in Owo killing at least 40 worshippers.
Their identities remain unknown.
– Nigerian NewsDirect Newspaper

Tonight, the earth mimes their names 
with blood-stained fingers. The dead,

stuck in its teeth, unable to be translated.
After releasing a statement condemning

the predators, the government has put
its hands back into our pockets.

The dead are mimed into abandonment.
In his last moments, a man held his child

wanting to protect him, but to a bullet
a child is no different from a bulls-eye – 

the parchment of his face torn. How a gun
pollutes the sacred: Mass turned massacre.

Tonight, the earth mimes with blood
in its cheeks, unable to pronounce its

seasons. No more rain to water that
last acre of God, no more wind except

to distribute the howls of the dead.
There is no consolation. There

is no consolation.      There is
no consoling           the dead.

New Tongue Sonata

Imagine at Babel 
all scrambling led to God’s 

hands tossing a bag 
of stones into the lake 

of speech, but in this root 
tongue, no word for hatred, 

no tunnel of sound 
leading to nigger, &

the only meaning 
we land upon
is flower.

In which that line in Plath’s
Ariel would read: flower-eye

In which Bieber’s n-word
debacle would be 
a gardening joke. 

The word 
never becoming

a rallying call 
for plunder, murder.

No word for hatred, 
no room for it

in the world’s mouth, wet 
with prawns & prayers. We 

say God, & mean the same
hollow, Gun, & understand

Is that the chorus 

of water I hear, its syllables
leaking wave 

after wave into the air? 
Orcas & dolphins, 

porpoises, sharks building 
something better, away 

from the human eye
& its guile. What 
I would give, O, to understand 

the lyric of water.
No word for death,

only translation. In which
Christ wouldn’t have died 

for us, but be translated,
for us, a clear language.

Pamilerin Jacob is a Nigerian poet & editor whose poems have appeared/forthcoming in POETRY, Agbowó, The Rumpus, 20.35 Africa & elsewhere. He is the Curator of Poetry Column – NND.


*Image by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to get our latest stories, poems and essays!