Satellite Phone Call to the Gardner Whose Memory Caught Fire
the butterfly between her fingers stained her with its yellow.
my mother speaks to her spades and she claims
she hears them speak back. here, we call psychosis
by all its fancy names, we assume it would mean inheriting
a gene that require our permission to inhibit what bloomed in our absence.
she had lost two sons to the Atlantic, and another two to bullets.
she wouldn’t know which is deadlier – bullets or water.
in a ritual to the sky, she lights a candle inside a tumbler by the bedside.
on the day Papa left, she started to bury seeds every month of his absence,
to keep track of the volatile memories in her body – that loses more heat than it generates.
I see her now, through the eyes of a raven, in a garden that’s also a diary.
she forgets all else, but not the time to bury a new seed.
this was how she grew what had been lost to water and bullets.
of the pyramid of ruins that is left of home.
before the fire, this house was an aquarium,
transparent – only from inside.
we were surrounded by walls of brown papers,
that are also maps of countries we visit in sleep.
The degrees inside the room coincides
with the weather outside. all my aunties are in matching gowns,
patterned as the flowers in the vase.
About home I sing, without telling of what whispers I heard in the wind.
I was betrayed by my own tongue; it learned to sing in other languages.
This tongue is a stem in a vasculum or a flower blackened by soot.
I left home before the fire, but I still blame the fire for my scars,
running around in circle is the easiest way to undo the burning.
I know it could be hard to tell what direction a bead rolls around a ring,
but with each step, I unmake the fire,
in doing so, I become too young for the dance floor.
In my palms are the seeds that got saved from the fire,
It is all I can will to my unborn children, even though what we own
drown us with its weight, I find it hard to unclench my fist, or stop to
Hussain Ahmed is a Nigerian writer and environmentalist. His poems are featured or forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal and elsewhere.