I Second Guess Religion in Place of Humanity

Ma is unrehearsed mayhem:

                vendor of uppercut & jawbreaking kicks. attacks with both twins

strapped to her back. infamous for pulling off wigs at 

                                                                                      the market place.

she that volatile. though gentle, if a brawl profits or leaves her littlun in safer hands.

Ma tells me stay. tells me, 

                        I wasn’t raised to demand from the government without a next of kin.

her baritone, 

                       upturning the airwaves that shoulders the heft of her words.

I identify as the lone survivor of her litter.

                       her only chance at matrimony. if she says, do not leave I translate it as being haunted by her remembrance 

                        of Damon, bleeding from an arm—bludgeoned pink by a taser.

our firstborn, 

rusting in the faded tint of a police van. she studies all of my teenage temper,

knows to water down my heartbeat—

                                                              lest a cop mistake its throbbing for rebellion.

Ma revels in her paganism.

                                                         every heathen drinks her native slang in one shot.

pinky toast to God: author & finisher of our pagan breath.

her incited ‘hallelujahs’, overthrowing priests. twice, she guilt tripped a catechist to

                                      engage an atheist in a bloody fisticuff. candle her body all night, till I could memorize 

                      the Confessions of Augustine—with loin poised downward as an inverted comma.

                       in the wake of my detention, Ma tells me my oratory is a gift for unwinning souls than for revolution.

                                         she thinks a burden like mine wouldn’t happen to her. I wish to account for days I outlive a handcuff—

                                                          oath-bound as a church marriage, teething into my skin. the year a gang of berets waylays me, demanding for language. & I pluck my wisdom tooth, handing each man a bit of shine.

when Ma tells me, her greatest flaw is being incapable of an uprising, I observe the

                                          room for the next wig that came flying, & the debris leads me to the back pew: 

a makeshift altar where a negro in the shape of Ma, hurl ‘hosanna’ in the high heavens.

                             the way the act mirrors both worship & war. the way we recite psalm till it loses taste; begs the question: how else do I relish paradise,

                                                                   other than asking a slice of my mansion here.

how do I follow in the steps of the cross, other than nailing my demands. other than

                                                     having my body nailed to shun the Navy’s lackluster.

you should see us waltz near the barricade—gaslighting our lungs, as we hand down  

lamb flesh like bread. hands, sutured into fabric, prepared to withhold a kin’s blood.


*Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Nnadi Samuel

Nnadi Samuel(he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. Author of ‘Nature knows a little about Slave Trade’ selected by Tate.N.Oquendo (Sundress Publication, 2023). A 3x Best of the Net, and 7x Pushcart Nominee. He won the Canadian Open Drawer Contest 2020, Miracle Monocle Award for Ambitious Student Writers 2021(University of Louisville), the River Heron Editor’s Prize 2022, Bronze prize for the Creative Future Writer’s Award 2022, UK London, the Betsy Colquitt Poetry Annual Award, 2022(Texas Christian University), the Virginia Tech Center for Refugee, Migrants & Displacement Studies Annual Award, 2023, the 2023 Stacy Doris Memorial Award(Fourteen Hills) San Francisco State University Review, the John Newlove Poetry Annual Awards(Ottawa, Canada), 2023 and recently won the Vera Manuel Poetry Awards, 2023 Surrey Muse Art Society(Vancouver, Canada). His third chapbook is forthcoming @Bywords Publication (Ottawa CA) in 2024. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.