Photo: Anne Louise Phillips
A Flock of Birds
I want to force birds against the sky of my mouth.
Beating their wings toward that infinity of songs.
It’s time for a seed to hold up its eyes to a sun,
bathing in its last lights. The world would like to spin,
a little faster now. It is not up to me
to bring the proof of a ghost’s inner longing. My skin is stiff
says the chiropractor, rubbing his hands around my body,
my bones—how they speak so clearly to him.
The mark of salah on my forehead turns into a flock
of birds. I am leaving the prairie for the South, where
ancestors were immobile under the toil of cotton. Tears
irrigate my anguish until anguish opens like a seedpod,
and there is only fragrance. In the dark,
my eyes are my stars. In the thin voice of a song,
I ask what is the aftermath of bliss? A divination
piled on the dim uncertainty of my own life.
Is it not chaos?
The soil, overfed with the tacky molasses of grief, is dying.
And I am a ghost of my own wants, afflicted with desire to live longer
than my dreams. I still cart around the traumas of a body
long gone. In my sockets I carry the eclipsed eyes of the moon,
hoping the past is wedged between its margins.
The Death of Shadows
In the morning light, twirling
beyond the silence I have worn
quite easily throughout the night,
my shadows are a wake
of unrequited lovers playing
upon the fleeting form of my loneliness—
Memories like a haunting beast
delude me with nostalgia
as I gather myself like a body of wants
into the safety of du’a. I am lonelier
than the white pine. At least
the Southern Winter’s wind comes
to shake its branches. Even
though I loiter on the cliff
of a love that wants me, I refuse
to fall. I open my mouth, wide
and swallow the light of joy.
SADDIQ DZUKOGI is a Nigerian poet and Asst. professor of English at Mississippi State University. He is the author of Your Crib, My Qibla (University of Nebraska Press, 2021), winner of the 2022 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, and the 2022 Julie Suk Award. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships from the Nebraska Art Council, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pen America, and Ebedi International Residency. His poetry is featured in various magazines including POETRY, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Guernica, Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, and Prairie Schooner. Saddiq lives and writes from Starkville, Mississippi.