Unlearning the Principles of Displacement for a Body at Rest By Chisom Okafor

Unlearning the Principles of Displacement for a Body at Rest

I’m only a boy on the night my father returns from his former life ─
a country that offered him death for two bottles of cheap wine ─
hair, the colour of wet moss
and stranded between columns of woodsmoke and evening air,
a prayer book for exorcisms flipped open in his head.
He wades his way to shore, skin bleached by pale sunlight.
I want to say greetings but he offers charred teeth for smiles.
A bag of bones for gifts. Blood stained hands in lieu of an embrace.
I hurt myself with a fishhook, curious to discover
what remains of my tactile sense. I drill a hole
into the point where the tip of my thumb should be ─
a scavenger, digging for diamond in a deserted coal mine.
My father does not gather strands of my falling hair in his hands
nor does he start to ululate in thanksgiving
for (my) survival in his absence.
His eyes are never here nor there,
wanting love, wanting home again, wanting everything.
He says: ‘come home, boy. Home is an open door.’
I say: ‘my body is rainwater finding home after a thunderstorm.’
So I’ll stay until deep into sundown when the stars start
to fall and hit my feet in sparkles.
I’ll stay until I no longer see his face, heavy with liquor,
nor feel the painful evidence of his whip on my lower back
─ induced stretch marks.
Until I become unable to decipher sounds
nor answer to this river each time she calls ─ tender notes
rising, then dissolving into echoes, soft and thrumming
like sapphire tossed into her body, slicing out a neat arc in air
before sinking and causing ripples in concentric circles.
I’ll stay all night, until I’m washed clean again, by the dews at first light.

By Chisom Okafor


Chisom Okafor is a Nigerian poet and Nutritionist, who was shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. He edited 20:35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and presently works as Chapbook editor for Libretto Magazine.

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