Two Poems


Meditation by the Nun

The blood moon is my witness,

i’ve touched my reflection on water and felt my body— the sum of its longings—multiplied

by the number of every pebble that’s returned to its belly undetected of the fingerprints of a river

goddess, divided by driftwood that’s never been the salvation of the drowning, subtracted by

the unheard prophecies of dead river birds. and it is true, to touch water this consciously

is to be touched by a mother pulsing with the pulse of dreams that sank with paperboats

childhoods ago, and fish, and mermen with the accent of troubled waters, asking the

what is man question. i, representing all men to fail in my answer by being

a tongue speaking in six microplastic particles per sputter.

The ghost of okara is my witness,

i have touched water   where it aches with the unremembered, and their unremembered song

sang in chains         to be free of, than be free in them              everywhere, except        

where mercy points            where the tether must loosen          as the path to that place— the knowing

there is now freedom         as that very place. if i cough out a knot of that rope into a clam, it is for an archiving of memory. this poem as a specie of that clam. and if i cough out cotton

seeds, it is to join the wraith of victor uwaifo singing “guitar boy” among these reeds

a sigh parts for me as i reunite her body with mine, to absorb her peace, her restlessness— a mother

running the tireless course of being with an ache gilded by the yellow sun, you will not believe

the man she sends with a bleeding tongue to tell you her name is the homophone of none.

Call & Response

(After J.P. Clark’s “Streamside Exchange”, and Gabriel Okara’s “The Call Of The River Nun”)

These long, cold nights across the Atlantic, by my leaking faucet, 

I listened for the lapping call of your silver-surfaced flow, 

A boy keeping his deaf ear out for the call of your river birds

bursting with songs of tides, of markets, and mothers who will not be returning.

And I hear it. Your river calls to me, too— through your throat,

it calls: a reed among reeds, consecrated for invocation. It calls me

after my thirst for rhythms that fill the mouth with the diacritics of mother

tongue, and the syrinxes of waterbirds slingshot on scarecrows

halfway through cradle songs for the sun, after it has shined

on the homeward paths of every child that sneaked to the river,

unseen. Your river speaks. It says it belongs in my veins—

a body of water to sink canoes carrying dog-eared sheet music

of laments for my countrymen under these crested waves of youth

crashing, some nights, through my eyelids.

Barefoot, I stand where the Niger River splits

 to sing back to you, in a pitch that breaks

the circle of these crouching hills.

Untie me from the trunk of this winter-weary elm,

and tether me with my umbilical cord

to the feet of this river bird in flight from Bomoundi,

traversing the misty eye of other skies. Father.


Photo by Elimende Inagella on Unsplash

Martins Deep

Martins Deep is a poet, photographer, digital artist, and a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His works have graced—or are forthcoming—in Magma Poetry, Strange Horizons, Frontier Poetry, Palette Poetry, Fiyah, Lolwe, Tahoma Literary Review, 20:35 Africa, Augur Magazine, and elsewhere. He says hi on X @martinsdeep1.