Self-Portrait with Less Anxieties
Lord, I want to be Hollywood-cool.
That young boy whose father owns
A company—and wills it over to
Him at twenty-one.
Once—I needed bread—I went to the
Block industry to mold some.
Two coins they paid me—finished
after the economy swallowed it
during my lunch time. The
next day—I took a knife to my
throat in mistaking myself a
martyr for capitalism.
That West-African griot
Who says to be a sunflower
Instead of the sun. Whose myths
Are slivers of language
Readying to couch grief.
Lord—there’s a flower in
the sun whose body is an
old song waning. Sing
me again—make my skin—a
sprout of winter—my anxieties
a riddle for another sunflower
Lord, see those Hollywood couples
Eating apple on a riverside, staring
at the birds fluttering in the sky
and kissing after every giggle.
They don’t need a map to their
Lover’s thigh. I tried it once with
my lover. & after a swig, I knew the
Taste of earth’s green. I knew
The cool of the moon was
A protest of the sun’s wrath
Upon a skin. After she left—
the river roared to
Say it too could flower a bone
If love remained an action word
Is a phone call to God. You are either wounded by a bullet
Or have a singeing agony that demands downpour from heaven.
This is how prayers start— every ache offering itself for healing.
I demand no downpour. I have danced in the threnody of that water
And witnessed the tenor of god cream the sky. Yet I remain agony—more agony than mortal.
Yesterday, I read Darwin. He theorized like father like son—meaning, a father repeats himself
in his son. Perhaps, like parents like
Children. This is how to say history repeats itself in biology. A father who is racist
Hones a child who becomes racist. A mother with a fish dancing in her belly, births
A child with a fish dancing in his belly. I’m that child. My stomach is more fish than
Belly because the doctors say I have inherited her ulcer. The pain goes rib-ward, a times
Shoulder-ward. Other times it rocks my navel to affirm Darwin’s theory.
Pain is how poetry starts. Sylvia Plath did it. She wrestled with demons on
the stage of her poems. She slung metaphors at them and buried their heads
In her sonnets. Hence, a poem is a phone call to pain. I have dialed for pain
with fingers that are more poems than fingers—and have staged a fight to say
I am more human than pain, more mortal than ulcer.
Everybody gon’ respect the shooter
But the one in front of the gun lives forever (the one in front of the gun, forever)
Protest is an act of love & love—an act of war.
In the old year, we marched against police
brutality at the toll gate. Police in return,
wrote a Petition against our bodies with
their guns. I want to say gun is the
synonym of death & the body a mere
thesaurus translating the sound of guns.
But would that be fair? Isn’t the body
An accumulation of earth & dust & a
synonym of green?
Previously my bio read: Paul is a Nigerian writer …
After that night, it started reading: Paul is a writer of Igbo descent &
Resides in Nigeria. This is what happens when a bird falls from wind.
It disowns the sky as its origin of flight & gives credence to its
Two years later, I go by the tollgate
As if walking is compatible with dying.
As if a gun is somewhere writing a
Petition against me. From a distance
I hear voices seeking retribution—
saying love is the sin of the tongue
it’s what killed us. I bow my head
knowing that the man who owns the gun
Paul Chuks is a songwriter, poet, and storyteller. He is of Igbo descent and resides in Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittlepaper, trampset, Ginosko Literary Magazine, Epoch Press, Streetcake Magazine, Loftbooks, Glass Poetry, and elsewhere. He’s a reader at Palette Poetry, Mudseasonreview, and Forge Literary Magazine. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s analyzing hip-hop verses or moving his body rhythmically to the songs raving on his roof.
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