Like Every Nightmare

I crawl in because the other boys crawl out.
Mum doesn’t remember where the remote controller is. She forgets

things mostly: how God keeps slipping from in between her thighs—
why the crucifix barricades the room &

why the men even catcall their mothers at the hour of prayers &
still pass for communions.

Maybe God doesn’t live in holes —Mum.
Men don’t have holes —Grams. So they keep entering yours.

I was just four & then wouldn’t have been born
when the first boy crawled out. The television is on,

a child is crawling out from the dark, a hole, the mum.
& the audience, practicing doctors are rejoicing.

Nothing passes unnoticed, even my sisters wore Ghana weavings
the day they killed their first snake, a dangerous brown snake.

& it was June because it wouldn’t have been any other month
When MKO Abiola declared himself the president of Nigeria.

I don’t understand how the television knows so many things,
especially how the tanks, missiles, & grenades conspire to build an empire.

Off, switch the television off —Mum.
I was just four but then wouldn’t have been born

the days boys crawled in & out of life. That day,
Dele Giwa died in prison & Abiola went missing,

& at home we prayed for silence to drown us
but the house went down in flames, not even the toy-gun

I loved was spared. I learned love doesn’t win wars.
On the couch, the boy that loved me sat with his hands

praying I love him like a fire. & when I burned his balls
I read about his death in the dailies.

Mum finds the remote controller
but it still doesn’t save my brother from leaving,

crawling back into darkness, the hole, where he
fell from, unwilling.

AKPA ARINZECHUKWU is a translator and the author of City Dwellers (Splash of Red). His work has appeared in Sou'wester, Transition, Saraba, Identity Theory, The Fourth River, New Contrast, and elsewhere. He was longlisted for the 2017 Koffi Addo Creative Prize for Nonfiction. 

He can be reached on Twitter via @akpaah