Two Poems

Chiwenite Onyekwelu


In the neighbourhood block,
some eight kids are playing war.
Above their heads, a falcon
hovers, leaving enough black
holes to swallow the sun.
On the map, something is burning.
I watch them through a spot
from the blind: the youngest with
his stick named gun,
that one time a bomb detonates, the
dying afterwards. There is
nothing beautiful about his death, or
that one’s, or another neigh-
bourhood boy flat on his face. At the
corner, a sunflower bows its
yellowed head, as if in fury, as if it
knows there is a country
somewhere on fire. In the real war,
a soldier bursts his
body open to block the advancement
of enemy tanks, a whole
bridge littered with scalp. In the neigh-
bourhood war, someone is
standing, is kneeling, is asking his own
friend to cut through him.

in narrating the biafra war


my grandmother 
skips the part about a rupture,

                  about my grandfather –
                the way his tendons blew open 

& unmade & hollowed out 
& what other word to suffice 

                    for pain? sometimes I ask
                  why aren’t there pre-war photos

of him & she says
photos are the easiest way 

                       to document grief,
                    to run backwards into time 

until you can see the
rifle the trigger the finger

                          getting on its nerve.
                       again a body falls headfirst 

like some tulip plant
& death, like eden,                                      

                          becomes its original
                         sin. In one story, cannibal

soldiers dish out a 
girl instead of food:

                          pork-meat earlobes. 
                         rosemary nipples. thighs 

mistaken for fish. 
my grandmother says 

                          whatever the war 
                         touches begins to burn,

so we sprinkle her 
body to put out the heat.     

                          see – the outcome is 
                         always unchanged. Even  

underwater there are 
things you just can’t stop 

                        from charring to ash.

Chiwenite Onyekwelu is Nigerian and lighthearted. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Adroit Journal, Chestnut Review, America Magazine, Gutter Magazine, Paper Lanterns and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the 2022 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry as well as the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize 2020, and runner-up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020. He serves as Chief Editor at the School of Pharmacy Agulu, where he’s an undergraduate.


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