Sancificum by Chris Abani   Leave a comment

Boys are taught to kill early.
I was five
when I shot a chick in my first ritual.
I was eight
when chickens became easy
but turkeys drew loathing.
I was ten
when I killed a goat. I was made to stare
into that goat’s eyes before pulling
my knife across its throat.
I thought it was to teach me the agony
of the kill. Perhaps it was
to inure me to blood.
To think nothing of the jagged resistance of flesh,
To make the smell of rust and metal and shit familiar.
I didn’t grow up on a farm.
I have never killed a man, but
I know how, I know I can,
I know that if the timing were right I would.
I am afraid that I might not feel sorry.
I am afraid that I will enjoy it.
Let there be love.
T-shirt for Terrence:
“And you say psycho like it’s a bad thing.”
What can you say about growing up in Nigeria?
Does anyone care that you picked plump red and yellow
cashews from trees and ate them in the sun,
the sticky sweet of them running down your arms.
And later, the seeds collected and roasted for the nut.
Can you talk about later in prison?
Writing names on other men with the sap of cashews.
Names to obscure their real selves,
names to protect what might be left over
for when they returned to the world from hell.
It is an old trick, to fool death by writing
a new name on your body.
I was afraid my soul would be obscured,
and in cowardly script, almost invisible to the eye,
scrawled with the tip of a needle: Saddam.
It has faded to a nice smudge on my belly,
where a network of hairs and stretch marks
pretend it never happened.
I learned alchemy in prison.
Words mean only what you want them too.
You say, sunshine and you mean hope.
You say, food and you mean refuge.
You say, sand and you mean play.
You say, stone and you mean, I will never forget.
But you do, but you do and thank God, thank God.
When they called from the university,
in all innocence, they said,
there is a letter for you from the president.
They had never heard the words Dele Giwa uttered
before the bomb blew him and his family to hell.
You tell your friend who runs the place.
And you sit turning the letter over and over,
while she gently clears the building
and then comes back to sit with you as
you turn the letter over and over.
Fingers ignorantly searching for wires.
Over and over you turn wishing you were American
and could have the naivety to not fear a letter from
your president. To feel only pride or the gentle rise
of acerbic wit as you prepare
to decline whatever is on offer.
You smile at your friend who has no reason
to be here except she won’t let you die alone
and you rip the envelope open.
There is no explosion,
A letter spills out with the crest of the president.
You are crying, tears running down your face.
You are glad you are not dead.
You are glad that your country is proud of you.
You are glad to see the day when things can change.
You are confused.
Your friend is holding your hand.
Dear Eloise Klein Healy,
blessing be upon your name.
Is this what it feels like to have your father love you?
To not fear his return?
To not expect to be hit when he reaches for you?
What can it feel like to believe
that the world is inherently good?
Let there be love.
I am not a pessimist.
I believe in love.


Posted August 15, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Mary's Favorite Poets

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