Poetry: Selections from Pacella Chukwuma- Eke

after Tina Schumann’s Self Portrait as Barn Seen from the Freeway

The government warns, Stay at home on Mondays. But my body translates, Stay in bed until the pores on your back can no longer tell the difference between a lockdown and an apocalypse. When zombies are the only creatures who do not observe curfew, I practice the art of sinking. Nothing pities my loneliness the way my bedspread does. It has begun to take deeper gulps of my aches than I. I fear this body might suffocate it. I spend my Monday mornings gossiping with Safari. Does depression have a scent? Is it okay to fantasize death? Is poetry suicidal?… Forgive me. I am part curious part sour part graveyard and partly damnation. My tongue weighs more than earth— believe me— I do not wish to compare my cross to the weight of the world, but qualify the sin I carry. A therapist would slide a razor into my mother’s budget; so she pinned me to her hands and dragged herself to the temple the way a native doctor does his sacrifice. God’s therapy is affordable, no? After our session, the priest asked that I quit smoking. Why does a man of God perform so poorly at imageries? I dare to ask. That I always inhale the remains of my sister’s burnt body does not make me a smoker. It only whispers that my body has become addicted to loneliness, longing. Longing. For something too far off in space only makes reality stiffen my lungs. The government warned, Stay home on Mondays. But like the priest, my sister was not so poetic; the warning did not ring into her ears as, The yellow sun is coming, zombies are tribal men with bullets. And when she walked into the sun with her friend’s hijab, her body became penance. 


this poem begins with a girl 
                                          living inside a canvas
a canvas carved
                          by the sacred keepers of culture
of culture is what they say 
                                         when they wear you silence 
you silence your voice because 
                                                 they uphold a quiet woman
a quiet woman knows no difference 
                                                        between freedom and a cage
a cage is the canvas you have sworn 
                                                           to call your home
your home comes with what a linguist 
                                                           would mistake for chains and whips
chains and whips tasted the bitterness  
                                                            of your skin more than your lover’s tongue
your lover’s tongue that birthed a name 
                                                             for all his puppet’s scars
his puppet’s scars you now carry 
                                                     as a broken body
a broken body    that you have become
                                                            is living inside a canvas.
                                           living inside a canvas
                                        when they wear you silence 

                                              you    a quiet woman

                                         between freedom and a cage

                                             you    a broken body

                                             living inside a canvas.

this poem begins with a girl, between freedom and a cage, as a broken body.

Pacella Chukwuma- Eke, NGP Xv, is a Nigerian poet and short story writer. She is the winner of the Cradle poetry contest, Abuja Duet Slam, Splendors of Dawn Poetry Prize, two-time finalist for the BKPW contest, and Joint winner of the FOW Poetry Contest. She is the author of Love in its bliss and sins; and runner up of the 2022 Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors(Poetry.) Some of her works have appeared or are forthcoming on Eunoia magazine, Strange Horizons, The Brittle paper, Rigorous magazine, Haven spec, and elsewhere. She is a member of The HillTop Creative Arts Foundation and tweets @dancing_poet, and can be found on Instagram @pacellachukwumaeke.


Popular Posts