Two Poems

Cleansing at 18

After Warsan Shire

on my eighteenth birthday, my mother took me to the bank of the River Niger
& washed off my eeriness. but i swear, she didn’t wash it well. yesterday,
NEPA took light & it took my mother our family’s wounds dissolving
into glory to differentiate between her son and the night. how long have I
begged for things i do not have the body for? my body smells of emptiness. 
once, i swallowed all the prayers in the Qur’an hoping to sprout into
miracles, instead, my mouth became a home for wounded winds. 
riddle me this, i carry the broken antics of home in my palms, 
wherever i go, it twists me into shadows of unripened mornings. 
sometimes, it feels like i’m wearing sanity the wrong way. 
my mother had thought the same too. once, she took me to an 
islamic cleric for prayers. the cleric asked for my religion. i answered: 
stillness. my religion has always been in the stillness of things
he asked my name & i answered: break, breaking. he handed me
prayer beads to pray. instead, i asked if i could ask his god
questions & he answered, handing me the beads. i began:
god, swear my body is not a keepsake for all your silences.
swear you can’t hear these things droning like terrified frogs in my head.
swear you do not know that i am unwelcome in this body. 
swear when you created me black, you stopped there. 
swear you didn’t create me to own all the blackness in the world. 
swear i am not the anger you make darkness cast.
swear you do not know about the woman at the roadside—
twice as old as my mother— whose eyes are a sink full of headlines: 
bullets disguised as cums, find their way between the thighs of thirty, 
man slits his throat open to regain sanity,
husband struggles to kiss his wife goodbye, a bullet kisses them both
swear you did not blind my people to read these headlines 
& swear you did not make them fall in love with their blindness
to know anything else could shimmer. god, swear you did not hear
my brother panic for his last breath. swear you didn’t see his last breath
leave the gap between his teeth as he tried to pronounce the f in father. 
swear you didn’t see him run out of oxygen like my country runs out of light 
and everything tender. swear you didn’t deny him his favorite meal. 
swear you can see my country palling in my mouth like my grandpa’s wedding suit. 
swear when the bandit stole my sister’s innocence, it was in your
language she mourned. swear you didn’t hear that & even if you did, 
you didn’t replace the faith she had in you with fate. swear this is 
not about accent. swear you don’t mock me whenever 
i try singing my country’s anthem and my accent fails me. 
swear when my brother promised to recover from his sickness—
you knew what he meant was to elope with the wind.
swear these lines are not another firefly dancing to the rhythm of silence  
i handed him over his prayer beads & swore i didn’t forget his god in my mouth. 

Love Is Water

my body is a room full of collapsed windows—
drowning beauty & light.
memory is the first thing i started
to lose. i speak the language of amnesia better than
my mother tongue. at age 14, when i lost my brother,
i buried every memory of home alongside his body. 
i chewed every of his memory into a slow
music & set it ablaze. evenings, i stand at
the shore to admire the sympathy of water— 
how it returns every lost thing back to the shore.
i would stretch my body so it can fill me to the brim
with its stillness. some days, i do not belong
anywhere, even in this poem. on others,
i overstay my welcome in this lie of a body.
what you own is what you have in your hand—
my old lover promised me eternity, but even it
faded with time. i look at our crumbled love
letters on the table & blame time— my father
says to walk in the desert, one has to spray
water. i pour a cupful of tears and watch
myself drown— i hang my guilt in fate’s mouth.
because where I come from, we blame fate for
every scar in our bodies. ever imagined why love
songs are so sad? because the most beautiful things
that happen to us never stay long. ever since
the death of my brother swallowed our family into
a fresh wound of grief, i have entered
each day trying to know what happiness tastes like—
i am living a borrowed life, the least i could
do is live up to expectations. in this poem,
i swear i would not bother you about my
memories. i am the beginning of every
catastrophic story. i am named after every
bad day— shapeless moons, unsung threnodies,
a lonely life. in an alternate universe, i
want to believe in love. i want to enter into a love

*Photo by Kees Streefkerk on Unsplash.

Adamu Yahuza Abdullahi

Adamu Yahuza Abdullahi, THE PLOB, TPC V, is a poet from Kwara state, Nigeria. He is a pioneer resident of Muktar Aliyu Art Residency, Minna, Niger state, Nigeria. He is a Best of the Net Nominee, and second-place winner of both the first edition of the Hassan Sulaiman Gimba Esq Poetry Prize and the Bill Ward Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers 2023. His works have been published in Lolwe, Strange Horizons, CHESTNUT REVIEW, The temz review, and other places. He is on X / Twitter @yahuza_theplob and Instagram @Official_yahuzeey.