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Three Poems by Jonathan Ukah

“Then you arrived like fresh tulips in winter,/the shape of my heart, the color of gold;/you turned the weeds in my garden into roses,/every rock on my farm was a bar of chocolate/waiting to feed our future generations…”

The Day I Saw My Mother Drink Her Blood

The soggy rain soaked the roads

when I Saw stars dancing in the field,

but lightning struck from the sky

and they shrank like wilted leaves.

It was my father returning from the pub

who told us how he transfigured on the way,

by the thunder, we didn’t see a blow

the hoarse sirens of fire,

and the devil in it tempted him

to fall from the roof and worship him.

Something whispered in my mother’s ears

that my father traveled to a far land,

returning was like tomorrow

that never meets a sudden end.

I was wondering why my mother

decided to hang her wreck in the open

where my father’s hunger was a floating stone,

seeking for a head to devour.

like a silent and stealthy robber,

he touched the reels of my mother’s body

and I saw pools of blood rushing through the door

as though they sought a different kind of air.

But she turned in about three hundred and sixty degrees

and scooped up her blood in her mouth.

When I stared out the window,

I saw horses galloping down the slope;

I knew that my mother’s love for my father,

must be the ghost lurking behind our door.


My Ola Edo

My mother carried you on her chest,

propped you up like a basket of fresh eggs;

my father sprayed holy water on your head,

after my heart had gone through slaughter;

after mockery had carved my soul like a blade;

and the day dropped darkness like pelting pellets;

all I wanted to have was a God-given child,

to shake my house like loud laughter;

to fill my room with crackling noise

and joke with her mother and me,

jumping from the ground to the window,

from my bed to the mahogany table,

drenching the floor with milk, chocolates,

water gurgling from her noses, eyes green,

handing me bouquets of lilies and dandelions;

my hunger was sharper than a thousand razors,

stickier than a million new needles.

Then you arrived like fresh tulips in winter,

the shape of my heart, the color of gold;

you turned the weeds in my garden into roses,

every rock on my farm was a bar of chocolate

waiting to feed our future generations;

you frowned at thunder, and it slide into a light,

making darkness shy and grief a pot of joy.

I was carrying the mountain on my shoulders,

but it turned into a pink garden

the moment you raised your eyebrows

and put the wind’s anger on hold.

You arrived as the angry swell of despair

was about to strip me naked by day.

So, I call you Ola Edo, my burnished gold.


I am Shy of Grief

Death tears off my clothes

and strips me naked;

it sends a rough wind to undress me,

violently assault me, slice my pants into shreds,

leaving me in the middle of the road,

a derelict, a man with neither present nor past,

in whom the vagaries of nature find no peace.

I am sorry that I cannot mourn without hope,

or like the hopeless throw all into grief.


I am too ashamed to mourn,

being like the lilies, dead at every touch,

my eyes are downcast,

my hair prostrates to the passing shadows;

every light dissolves into darkness

even as the day approaches.

I cannot look to the sky to ask questions,

but I pluck a blade of yellow tulips

growing wild in my garden.


My heart is the shape of the moon,

so I cannot lie, cannot stare at the sky

and mourn for a new tomorrow.

You call it death, but it is the beginning,

the shortening of the distance between now and then,

the slow welcoming of eternity.

Don’t worry when I cover my face in shame,

hiding it from birds in flight without wings,

whose wings are their dreams and their truth.


Jonathan Chibuike Ukah is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet living in the United Kingdom. His poems have been featured in the Atticus Review, San Antonio Review, The Ephemeral Literary Review, Strange Horizons, The Pierian, The Unleash Lit and elsewhere. He is the winner of the Alexander Pope Poetry Award 2023 and the second runner-up of the Wingless Dreamer Publishing Poetry Prize 2023.

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