Three Poems – Chisom Okafor

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A piercing through the dark

In the face of darkness, this secluded space is a pathology

likewise to live alone in it.

My heart keeps failing in bits, as the voice from the evening news,

crisp as snowflakes, announces that twitter 

has just been banned in my country.

It’s close to bedtime, and my lover is on his knees, 

hunched over the bed on the other side

praying in a language only he understands.

Empty tonight, I remember walking with my father to the cardiologist’s

six years ago, after I’d fallen for the fourth time, 

off the cliff of a hill,

my feet devoid of sensations, my head swirling 

as in a circumventing tornado.

When the doctor asked me to describe the pain in my chest,

I think I said: angina.

I think I said: pectoris.

I think I said: there is an elephant on my chest.

I can’t remember which now.

But I’m sure he heard: my heart is clean and white as silk.

And muttered in reply: I know. I know.

After praying, my lover tells me he feels God has listened too much

to my arrhythmic heartbeats, 

God sees your racing heart, he whispers.

Why not tell him something he has never seen?

He proceeds to talk to God again, about twitter,

and starts with: a country, velvety red. Blood red. 

Red of the marooned. Red of the shipwrecked. 

Red of oxygenated blood,

stuck within the perimeters of an endangered heart.

There is a trembling inside the both of us 

precipitated by silence.

We can’t find more words for God than these.

This is where language begins. This is where language ends.

Otherwise, I choose to die intestate

Nine times, I’ve found myself sprawled out,

etherized on the ECG table, in a room

peopled by cardiac monitors and 

bespectacled cardiologists.

Nine times I’ve known the speed at which my heart beats

to exactly equate the velocity of light,

which is the same, I suppose, as the gravitational pressure

exerted on a given body in motion,

taken by the exquisite art of free-falling,


One night, my father hid himself somewhere between bodies,

stationed at the entrance of my room

while I agonized.

I swear, if I believed in forgiveness,

here is what I’d have said to him:

I forgive you for passing unto me, 

your heart of stone.

A heart not capable of loving in the way

the world has come to know it, 

and choosing instead, time after time,

all the several darknesses that I hated once,

but have now come to love

like the cologne of a passer-by,

long lost to the winds.

In lieu of etiology, signs and symptoms

At the end of my suffering,

there was a door.

− Louise Glück

To live alone

in this birdhouse,

is a pathology,

even more so

on nights

when the act 

of living

equates the elegance

of an archer,

speaking resurrection

into a scattering 

of arrowheads.

There is a piercing


in my myocardium,

at the same time

as the disappearing

of a covey of quails


into the gathering twilight.

On a distant field,

six boys, 


leap after a ball

with the agility

of an army of tadpoles

and in a fleeting moment,

I wish for this perfect

sense of navigation


like the old days

of ravenous health.

But I tell you,

in my alone-ness,

I am the offspring

of all the little lights.

I am the flowing


unshakeable escort.


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