Two Poems | Akwaeke Emezi | Granta

Two Poems

Akwaeke Emezi

‘joseph uncle is ghost-quiet / the kind of man you can’t scream at’

Two poems by the author of Dear Senthuran.


my black gleam fatherhusband
gravefirst maestro of the night
papa, i pray, and my skin
ripples from his dead touch
my fingers on his faded waistcoat
aubergine velvet, his corpse holding
between my spread thighs
wallahi, no human alive
turns me on like this, drunken fire
rum-soaked habanero on his breath
damp soil pressed under my back
spine bucking at his shadowed grin, see
the baron likes to watch
my stripped face, splay
my hips as walls of earth collapse
eating up the rectangle of sky and
i become the dark, coffee-black
under the heavy mantle –
a bride’s veil, a child’s shroud –
i would die, i would die for him
want of my afterlife, brand on my chest
do whatever you like with me






he says the word like it is full of pus and blood / like he found it under his
tongue and blames / us all for putting it there

joseph doesn’t respect me, my father shouts / the man is just a carpenter /
what’s my own if he’s also a fool / the boy is not his son

his voice is ox bones thrown against the walls / heavy bamboo whistling on
tender calves / i flinch in the corner / he can be loose with his hands

joseph uncle is ghost-quiet / the kind of man you can’t scream at / he doesn’t
know they’re quarreling / he’s not even here

how was i supposed to know the boy was listening, my father says / and
so what / is it not the case / they attack me for telling the truth / enemies,

the boy is always listening / waiting for mary auntie to come pick him up /
a small and dangerous monk / don’t mind him, i say / you are not that

he looks at me with those eyes / they scare my mother / almost as much as the
dead bird beating / its wings under his hand

one day, he tells me / you will never be afraid that he might hit you / one day
he will be old / and brittle, he will give praise / for your phone calls

you are not that, i repeat / twisting away from the light / i know, he says /
i am the son of god / worry about yourself.


Image © Eddy Van 3000



Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is the author of the memoir Dear Senthuran and the novels The Death of Vivek OjiFreshwater, Pet, Bitter and the forthcoming You Made a Fool of Death with your Beauty. In 2018, they were chosen as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35. Photograph © Adam Vo

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