By Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto


Aubade With Fragments In A Closet

(with adjusted lines from Joy Ladin’s Forgetting)

 The reverse of concern is the genesis of the complex.
I reconfigure the small larks in my silence to be close to my worries.
Tensed verbs understand the garnet limbs in pulsed clauses I often use.
I reconfigure my silences into heliographs
for my ancestors who margin the history I was denied at school. 

As a little boy, I was taught that heroes are only those who killed their enemies.
I must tell you: I have never seen a real dragon since stuffed
in my childhood with many things not close to my realities.
The only dragon I know is a dragonfly. 

I see a museum of dog-eared nights in my mother’s eyes.
I saw a museum of seasoned postscripts on my father’s palms. 

The night sky keeps towing back the neglected shrubs. And
the afternoon mosquitoes burn down lighthouses guarding the sanity.
I am learning how to write a poem through my worries.
My worries have seen the ways my country unlive its citizens.

In my country, my friend wonders how she couldn’t
walk a month without stepping on red sand. 

My mouth knows the names of ugly gears that
the flower I plant in my voice begs for peace in my country.

I have picked ripe and rotten mangoes by the flag and made them into a mosaic:
let everyone know about the garden; the pogrom; the image of the fatherland,
their best friend, your brother, our restricted reserves, or
untrained policemen, or speared sister, or tart brambleberry. 

Let everyone know all the anthems there is.
Let everyone know that this is blood; this is water;
that this is a knee hard on the neck; that this
buried history is the evidence to keep alive our progress.

Let everyone know these are permeable functions;
this is an allergic reaction;
that’s a fire; that’s a voice gasping for air; 

Let everyone know the truth.


Epithalamion For A Mother Seen In A Father’s Smile

My father is long dead now,
but in his portrait, he is still
having a big smile.
I imagine flowers in the smile
and think that life is a story of
how long it takes one to die ―
this verdant thought
is delicate inside of my head
like Nitrogen-trioxide.
I have climbed up this poem and
found the loneliness of my mother
in her bed and in her body.
And I’m left with a rose at my navel.
My mother is a windmill in a whirlwind.
I look at the portrait of my father again
and see in his big smile an ocean where
my mother bathes on its shores. 


My Therapist Kept Smiling At My Tricks

I visited my therapist and stretched as I could
to familiarize again with my excesses and wounds.
My therapist listened to me.
I towed a string of want and grew passages where my
father’s voice asked me for the meaning of forgetting.
I have never wanted to forget. But I have faltered in remembering.
I told my therapist each time a butterfly kissed the nape of my
happiness I hopped into a fluorescent-filled dream and saw
the faces of people who harmed me, and I wanted them to speak to me.
I told my therapist that my to-do list had it that I write a poem
ravelling the parentheses of past tears.
Tears have been the thread retooling and untooling my burdens.
I told my therapist I also wanted to write a poem raveling how
point of view is often lost in ghost stories and in squandering.
I told my therapist that, sometimes, I sat inside the bowl of my loneliness:
moments I couldn’t avoid without swirling in the pools of filled glasses.
I told my therapist how far I porcupined in my worries.
And she smiled at my tricks. 

The truth is: I have been throwing stones
at the guidelines meant to settle the dust rising in my head.
I always worried. Worried about things not going as they should.
The sun dulls and the story about privileged complaints rises.
I really want to be happy.
I really want everything poking me to unpoke. 

Confused Until I Wasn’t 

One day, after a lecture where a professor
taught the tricks of foregrounding,
I understood or rather told myself or
actually discovered
that the obsession I was unable to locate
inside of me wasn’t inside of me.
I was looking at the wrong place.
And to a fault or degree, I was confused
until I wasn’t.
The thing is that the obsession was never inside of me.
It was outside. And I am looking at it now.
Looking at it on the mangoes sitting
like big carats from Tibet inside my opened fridge.
To make you understand, I’ll explain: you know I
eat lots of mangoes⸻those sweet-sweet gods of sweetness.
They see us from the shop where they are gathered by their sellers.
They see us from their posts on the trees.
They see us when they leave their posts for the ground.
They see us and draw us to themselves.
Mangoes, those sweet-sweet gods of sweetness, draw us to themselves.
They keep telling us to get them, to buy them, to eat them.
They are obsessed with me, with us, with our mouths.
They are obsessed with us just like every other thing that can obsess. E

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto (@ChinuaEzenwa) is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was shortlisted for the 2023 Alpine poetry fellowship, and has been published by Isele Magazine, Afreada, Poet Lore, and the Massachusetts Review.