from what he remembers, 
                         our worries began
when we buried his amulets
by the waterside.
the year is 1969: townscapes are lurching
the arms of one bloodshed
to another. he is holding my hand
as we run for cover behind deserted trenches.
bullets busy themselves with tearing down
hemless folds of thick air above our heads.

all around us, flies
feast on bloodied bodies in shredded khakis.
in this moment, this war doesn’t define our country,
he tells me. 
at nightfall, when silence is all we know
of the language of the skyline 
i watch him wind down the shields of history:
in training camp, him & i became friends
after i broke his week-long winning streak
at arm wrestling.

he wants to know how i regrew
the middle finger i lost to the edge
of a jackknife in our first battle together.

in his account, before sleeping at night 
i tug my rifle to my hairless chest
make a pillow of my soldier boots—
he tells the story until it becomes the story of another story
his mind, a broken valve between two lifetimes.

i ask what his name was in the army.
what, even, is my name?
another part of him, he’s forgotten.

he stretches in his reclining wheelchair 
his bones, cranky as an unwaxed carriage.

he insists, we lost the civil war 
because i kept aiming at a god, only i could see
hiding behind a cloud.

how do i tell him that he’s my grandfather 
& i wasn’t born until 28 years after the war?

*Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash.

Abu Bakr Sadiq

Abu Bakr Sadiq is the author of Leaked Footages (University of Nebraska Press, 2024), which won the 2023 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry. He is the winner of the 2022 IGNYTE award for Best Speculative Poetry, and a finalist for the Evaristo Prize for African Poetry, 2023. His work is nominated for the SFPA Rhysling Award, Pushcart Prize, and is published in Boston Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Fiddlehead, MIZNA, FIYAH, Uncanny Magazine, Augur Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, and elsewhere.