By Hussain Ahmed

I am a sun, rising over a field of hays

but once, I was a rose flower

blooming amidst leaves of faded greens.

For centuries, the petals held encrypted

messages, until the mouth formed enough

alphabets for love.

Before there was hay, there was field.

I was once a pollen grain,

dispersed outside the window – of

the woman I would let sing in my ears,

as the rain drums the windowpanes.

The genesis to everything beautiful, is light –

or rain or both. And whatever

hints of love, hints of death.



There’s no vocabulary                         in the army –               for grief,           or death.

Each door you exit,                             leads                                        to another parade ground.

With each lightening                on the face of the sky,                         you remember

the matching tattoos                you drew                      on each other’s back.

The flash                     of repeating memories you crave                     every morning,

I hope it keeps you alive         until the next                           gun fight.

Every death is expected,         but you loam the pains            in your mouth

and sing                       of the days when the gyration was                               enough

for you             and the battalion.                                You remember ___________,

excused from the war front,                 and like you,                he envisaged rapture

The roaring of the waters        on the edge of Lagos               reminds him of Maiduguri,

the thatch        where you both kept watch                 and sang until it stopped raining.

The ocean’s wave                    kept him alive                                      until the next gun fight.

He returned                                         before the arc on his stomach              healed.

The field is where the love is,                          he made it        to the pavilion

where you both sang                on top of your voices,              because you must not close your eyes,

not in prayers,              not to dream of anywhere                    outside the circle.

After the ambush                                                                     you still hear whispers

of his songs,                 that alone keeps you too alive                         until the next gun fight.


There is a feather in us all,

                      but mine often

reroutes me back home.

The day after a flood, our room sounds emptier

                              than it was before we slept.

I wondered what we lost to the brown water.

Like the glittering lips of a knife that turns rusty

                in a pouch that is to keep it safe,

our shadows became translucent on the blue wall.

This is how I imagine the bottom of the sea,

                           but layered with stones

               or crab bones –

where an octopus hides, waiting

for preys to wander into its territory. E

Hussain Ahmed holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Mississippi and is a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. He is a winner of the 2022 Orison Poetry Prize and the author of Soliloquy with the Ghosts in Nile (Black Ocean Press, 2022).