Proximate Moments & Other Poems

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Proximate Moments

(on getting sick and not picking calls from Olisa Eloka)

I have curly hair, my mum does and her mum too.
Thought: something must have happened somewhere, somehow, along the line of lineage.
I come from a line of people who don’t know if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday or Sunday.
We like to surprise ourselves, and even the neighbours.
But last year, I surprised myself: I considered dying.
This consideration came out of what I was afraid I would never touch again.
There was a (w)hole in that moment of consideration; it was something
like a four-dimensional gathering within a family yelling back at me.
There are some miracles one picks on the roadside,
and trying hard to understand my silence is not one of them.
I’m 30 and have made a mess of myself in so many ways.
I have lost count of the rivers I have survived; I have lost
count of words I have un-rinsed and filled myself with.
For four days now, malaria has knocked me down.
Four days of complete inactivity.
Just me and meds and cold and shivers and meaningless
dreams and absent appetite and bitter tongue.
I am much better now; my stomach is full of pills.
Yesterday, I watched Merlin, the third season, episode 12, I think.
It’s titled: ‘The Coming of Arthur’. Last time I saw it,
I was still in secondary school. But I saw it again.
I don’t know what happened. Maybe malaria has wrecked
my toxic masculinity, or maybe I’m not really as tough
as I think myself to be, because as the episode ended,
I found my eyes completely moist.

Courage Is the Three-Centimetre Vibe I Keep Walking With Even When I Have Lost My Sense of Direction

—after a talk with Olisa Eloka

There’s an exhaustion that sleep fixes. 
Then there is this weariness that eats deep into your soul,
like you can dip your hand into your heart and 
won’t touch no plane, no wall, no end. 
Only this rootless void swallowing your arm, 
swallowing what remains of the rest of your life.
But my life, it is somewhat free of annoyances – this is debatable
as facts depend on one’s side of the table. 
I must say that I’m still looking for the right word to express my first orgasm.
Orgasm, as I know, is a human thing to experience.
But there have been walls built to eat it up. 
And the most human thing to do about it is pretend.
In every pretence, one thing is ego. Conservativeness is another.
And my country is a place where pretence is never on exile, 
always glaring in its leaking and punctured oubliette. 
Also, everything good and relatable seems shaky in my country. Perhaps everywhere else. 
I use “seems” because it’s not a good day to fake appearances. 
The truth is who wants to hold onto a fragile, dying thing? 
Another truth is who wants to hold onto a dying courage? 
Courage, no matter how little, has been the three-centimetre vibe I 
keep walking with, even when I have lost my sense of direction. 
I keep walking with it because I am often afraid I might
be swallowed by earth when I am not looking, 
and this is the kind of thing one doesn’t refer to as a blessing. 
I think my mother was right when she said, do not be ashamed of God’s blessing.
But for years I have been looking for blessings all around and on my body. 
It’s interesting, you see, how “thin” and “fat” have
become socially unacceptable adjectives –
Social constructs. Capitalistic constructs. Constructed demands. 
If you see, in these things I have said,
one thing is permanent – language. Another is its usage.
And that makes me think everything is a trap,
wanting us to have a feel of it just like the day.

The World Will Never Run Out Of Good and Bad News

after a chat with Olisa Eloka concerning where we live

The world will never run out of good 
and bad news, so try not to be triggered by 
some things you read on social media.
And for God’s sake, man, woman,
try and be kind. Be kind because
it’s a human to do, a human thing to show. 
I am expressively referring to the word kind 
because where I live, it’s often on distance. 
Sometime last year, the EndSars
protest hit a climax. 
People were killed as they 
waved the flag of their country.
And other people, who were 
nowhere close to the scene of this 
abomination – some reside abroad – came 
online and said that nobody died. 
That no life was lost. 
I do not know which was worse –
the murders or the denials. 
We must not forget the dead. 
I will not forget the dead. 
To forget is akin to killing them 
the second and many times.

Be kind.

Sometimes I Wonder If We Do Sin Now and God Forgives Us in the Morning

—after sharing an experience with Olisa Eloka

Many months ago everything I had saved got stolen.
This sad story of mine began in the simplest manner:
Something was taken from me. Thereafter,
I was pushed into drowning. Pushed into drowning. Pushed into drowning. 
Before then I had never ever wondered what it is like to drown;
Never ever had the taste of my skin tearing away from me. 
I was made the ruins of myself, the ruins of my ruins.
It was like an ocean coughing itself into the earth.
It was such a devastating loss that I also lost my speech. 
The doctor called it Aphasia and said it was out of shock.
Also, it was a terrible time to be alive, the pandemic, especially in my country. 
Sometimes I wonder if we do sin now and God forgives us in the morning.
After some days, I started tailoring all my tears one by one into a mosaic of striving.
It wasn’t as if I could, but my mother gave me the reasons to. And some friends too. 
And this art wasn’t easy. 
I was not taught. I learnt it on the spot. 
I also learnt that many things could happen to one all at once, 
And my devastation was part of it – too much for a body. 
But I must say whatever weight one carries, it shouldn’t be
As unrelated and perforated as a continent. 

I still love myself and also love you.

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto is from Owerri-Nkworji in Nkwerre, Imo State, Nigeria and grew up between Germany and Nigeria. He has a chapbook, The Teenager Who Became My Mother, via Sevhage Publishers. He was a runner-up for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize for Literature in 2014. He won the Castello di Duino Poesia Prize for an unpublished poem. He was the recipient of the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s 2018 Writing Award and the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s 2018 MFA scholarship. In 2019, he was the winner of the Sevhage/Angus Poetry Prize and the second runner-up in the fifth Singapore Poetry Contest. His works have appeared in Lunaris Review, AFREADA, Poet Lore, Massachusetts Review, Frontier, Palette, Malahat Review, Southword Magazine, Vallum, Mud Season Review, Salamander, Strange Horizons, Anmly, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Spectacle, Ruminate, and elsewhere.


*Image from Iwaria

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