Pat Ashinze

THE MARK

at first, you’ll think it’s just the colour:

the one that gives shape to fortune cookie stories
told day and night by our mothers, their mothers,
our fathers and their fathers;

the one that gives lustre to our skin
when we stand in the grinning gleam of the sun;

the one that gives a name to our borders
when satellite maps sketch geoid shadows on screens;

the one that gives us pigmented tags when other people
try to describe the spawns of nature in monochromes;

the one the devil and his silly minions prefer to wear
in our movies, in our thoughts and our wallpapers;

the one God clouds himself in when he wants
to speak to sly, rudderless sinners seeking redemption.

but when you look beyond the smokescreen
of stereotypes and clich├ęs designed to obscure
the glow of bedazzling archetypal lights;

like a cook gauging the amount of seasoning cubes
to add to the insipid broth of a family of nine,
you would see what defines us: a mark that has been
fractured by history into immiscible fragments.
you would see the body parts of a beautiful woman
scattered like seashells and stones on a haunted shore,
waiting to be stitched together and ressurected
into invigorated wholeness by the breath of love.

some of these pieces come in the form of vernacular
sounds produced by robust, ululating lips!;

some pieces come as cicatrices made to remind
the lost and the frosty of the accented songs their
ancestors danced to when the world was much younger;

some pieces come as reliquaries and martyries
driven into oblivion by wars, bullying and plundering;

some pieces come as infantile outcries of grown men
muffled to death by the large thighs of injustice;
while some come as names that give the night
its subtle and enlivening light.

I write this in the language of hope and loneliness,
waiting someday for forgotten words to echo
and give rhythm to constellations of stars playing
off-key and offbeat monotones in the solitudes of space.