Michael Imossan


*trigger warning: this poem contains elements of suicidal thoughts.


before we first learned how to walk,
the journey began in our eyes. there are
roads to remembering. I walk the sad
path of a song to watch my past standing
at the edge of night: a boy tiptoeing the
ledge of loneliness, leaning into the brisk
air of the harmattan wind unfurling against
November’s naked skin. his hair/ wearing the
colour of three dusty streets. his hands/ red
with memory, red with the blood of country/
unwinds a kite chained to a makeshift spool,
far from freedom. Asa’s Jailer blares from
the distance and a boy is learning for the first
time that a song is just a poem that has passed
through water. tell me, what language do
songs speak when doused in tears? do they carry the
accent of a boy exorcised in fire? or are they
tone-marked in the manner of a boy unfamiliar with the
tenderness of a mother’s touch?
or stressed in the way we love to make prisoners of the
things we hold dear? Like my mother’s memory
held captive in my eye. At the funeral, as a way of
comfort, the priest iterated the order of loss: parents
before their children, older ones before younger
ones –but I know, death tastes the same/regardless/ so I
close the night and sleep…


each time I want to write about my mother,
i first name things I cannot hold; rainbows,
auroras, butterflies falling like rain, fireflies
draped in moon. it is how i know that a
motherless child can only know happiness in his
dream. there is a cat drowning in my vein.
there is a hole in my shadow I cannot find in my
body. night moves to fill the space between my
throat and a butterfly. I’ve tried holding love in my
bones long enough to know that longing is to
want what cannot be held; it is how the ocean
stretches to touch the sky and becomes the
horizon. today, in class, the teacher asks us to
name an abstract noun. I tell her my mother,
the whole class burst into laughter. what they
do not know is that an abstract noun is just a
noun that has lost its body. I try to touch my
mother, she vanishes into my English textbook
as an example of things that cannot be held –and
I wonder, why was she carved in the image of my


But still, I try to hold her when I am
under water – because I know, abandoned
memories can grow cobwebs. Some griefs are
old enough to bear children, and some dreams
taste like liquid –rippling and rippling. the only
time I have known happiness after mother’s
passing was in the mouth of a boy haunting my
dream. someone said our body is made up of
80% water. another said the road to death passes
through my country’s map. I believed them both,
because, there was a boy drowning inside of me.
I wanted to pull him out as rose-petal but the
voice on the radio said, a bounty has been placed on
any boy who sees flowers in the body of another boy. what
that means is that the boy who came for my sister
said he saw a flower in our compound. what that
means is that I can never be a flower, no one
is ever going to come for me. perhaps there is a
place in the atlas that spells safety. perhaps death is
a road to freedom, to my mother, to Ezechukwu.
last night ghosts snuck into my blood. this morning
i find myself cutting open my wrist. all i want to do
is see my loved ones again. what you
do not know is that there is a river burning and there’s
not enough rain in my body to quench it.