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All The Places That Swell With Hurt | Othuke Umuko...

All The Places That Swell With Hurt | Othuke Umukoro

All The Places That Swell With Hurt | Othuke Umukoro | Agbowo Art | African Literary Art

in memory of the brothers & sisters we lost in the #EndSARS protests

I am taking a risk with this poem.
I mean our bodies are up against
Goliath & the mouth of a grave.

Lately, I’ve taken to watching
my neighbour’s child. The way he
meticulously moves around the
compound after every heavy downpour
to save earthworms from the tearing
beaks of his own mother’s hens.
Lately, I have become
an unsettled feeling
growing helplessly.

The New York Times headline I am
reading this morning says there’s water
and ice on the moon, and in more places
than NASA once thought.
There are more bullet holes
in this poem than you
can possibly count.
Sometimes you wake up
& the birds are singing.

Sometimes you wake up
& something is trying to kill you.
My country is the mouth
of a gun, cocked & aimed.

In this room, where it is always cold, I am
thinking of my grandfather. My grandfather,
who worked the graveyard shift for twenty-two
years before the heart attack hurried in like a
hurricane & knocked him into a pine coffin, says
every poem boasts of at least one border, somewhere
silence grows, squeezed between two cracks, or
faults, in the earth’s crust.

In my mother tongue, a poem is a prayer
but how do you begin a prayer that ends
with the dying bodies of your sisters & brothers,
their hands, washed in their own blood, refusing
to let go of their country’s flag?

This stanza is intentionally left blank.


Though they want me to,
this poem will not end in ache.
There are alternative routes in this poem
where we are marching for our dead are not
dead, their names embroidered in our tongues,
are alive in a soft song sprinkled with dawn.
Though they bury us in nameless places,
we shall not give away this light.
Like Moses, we are stretching
forth our rod of burning hope
to split this red sea of oppression.
Our voices are raised in defiance
against the executioners & pharaohs
that be, our song is lifted over
their bolts of lightning. Call this
whatever you like, our spirit
is not broken, we are doing
what must be done
to usher in the
miracles of
rain in this
dry spells
of dust.


Othuke Umukoro

Othuke is a poet, playwright & an overzealous woodpecker from Nigeria. He is a Pushcart & 2x Best of the Net Nominee. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in Tentacular, Mineral Lit Mag, The Sunlight Press, Sleet Magazine, Random Sample Review, Kissing Dynamite Poetry Journal & elsewhere. He tweets @othukeumukoro19.

Cover Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash


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