Rhubarb Shot & Other Poems

Abu Bakr Sadiq


while buildings topple at the centre of the city
on a radio show, a woman calls in to report
a missing daughter. left home for school at 7.
last seen on a school bus. 14. light skinned.
hair covered in hijab. skirt, large enough
to fit two girls her size. has memorised
the qur’an. fluent in hausa & pidgin & arabic
& english. speaks like her lineage
lives on her tongue. smells of seawater.

in the city’s centre, more buildings are falling.
firefighters continue to pull casualties through
thick smoke. elsewhere, a family is stopped
for security check at the chad border. the father
squeezes naira notes into the palms of the custom
officer. in the backseat, his wife mutters verses
from the qur’an. from the rearview mirror,
he sees her face, wet with tears.

in the news, they say more buildings might fall &
all residents should evacuate the centre of the city.
i watch a woman open her mouth to say a dua.
her voice, a string of white noise, echoing
the rumblings of her fears. someplace, students
at a madrasah, spread prayer rugs on a field.
facing the qibla, their eyes fall on roofs, brought
down by stormwater, gunfire & God’s silence.


i mumble duas against my desires for what’s gone. a sheikh at the masjid
tells me to accept my losses with faith. says everything had been written

long before i came into existence. the fate of brother’s broken tooth
lost in an accident only Allah saw coming. the fate of my right ankle

before i twisted it on a bicycle after school. the fate of my country–
a ray of light, lost beneath the shadow of a night sky. the fate of my heart

beating in unison with the breath of burning cities. the fate of my ears
deafened by jets of gunfire. the fate of the wind, blowing through nights

i fill the air in my room with supplications. the fate of my faith
opening its chest to accept the will of Allah. maqtoob. maqtoob. every word

already written. so i should consider why the missing boy’s face stays stretched
above my memory. maqtoob. maqtoob. all of my life, an uncovered erasure

of what was written by Allah. so i should consider the end, where every will
shall pass. consider empty playgrounds, aching for the feet of children. consider

what should be a blessing: i have lost so much but not a memory of anything i’ve lost

Midnight in Maiduguri

for AJ

years after the insurgence         abduljalal
offers me an invitation to his hometown
in maiduguri     sometimes      he tells me
stories of how the insurgents           built
their army        some of the boys he grew
up on the same street with                  got
recruited      before the dark days      they
had been incapable of hurt       had hands
untouched by          the coldness of death
the second time     he invites me     it’s for
eid festival           he tells me it’s now safe    
the celebrations there               marvellous
as moonlight in winter             we get to 
ride on horses       dressed in long flowing
attires     our heads   wrapped in horned
turbans     trumpeters trailing behind us 
while drummers drape the air 
with ear-piercing music 
and since the dusk       has stopped being
a wet blanket         dragging the shadows 
of the past into their homes     we will go
out to see the nightlife in town   enjoy the
songs that helped them survive rays
of the black sun that rose before their eyes

Abu Bakr Sadiq is a Nigerian poet. He is the winner of the 2022 IGNYTE award for Best Speculative Poetry. His work is nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award, and is published or forthcoming in Boston Review, Mizna, Palette Poetry, FIYAH, Uncanny Magazine, Augur Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Covert Literary Magazine, Zone 3 Press Magazine, Iskanchi Press & Magazine, The Lit Quarterly, Rockvale Review, Best of New Myths Anthology, and elsewhere. He writes from Minna.

Sign up for our newsletter

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