Two Poems

Poetry / Saddiq Dzukogi

:: Inner Songs ::

When I pray, I place my palms one onto the other, 
on my chest, as if to say, it is yours, 
God in a voice deep as a fissure— 
where the things that go in echo 
and create circles like a stone 
stirring the face of a river, my prayer is a planetary body, 
siphons my energy and gives nothing in return.    
What light can stir me through 
this hailstorm of darkness. What orchestrates my body 
to trust its scraped knees instead of the feet. 
Grief means me, means to keep my body swallowed— 
paring down my bones to an idea that cannot flower. 
It is a virus strafing my immune system like rock salt 
rubbed at my skin, where I have bruises, 
until the bruises are stripped into wounds 
even my shadows can feel. Barefoot, 
at the place where earth ate my daughter’s 
placenta, seeking to empty my sadness, 
the sadness of a body, a body like a house 
built on buried bones. I am singing to the ravens 
and my sorrow spills on the neighbor’s wife. 
She is pregnant. Each morning when we meet, 
I’d see my sadness in her eyes. 
I bridle at a beaming light so much 
what I see is just a dark so dark it holds my eyes 
for a few seconds after I turn away. 
I am fond of your memory, 
it’s the only room I walk into 
and find you on a mulberry carpet 
waiting with sealed lips, a face, 
a body, and silence. 


:: Still-Life ::

Sometimes memory is more than a knife 
cutting moments from my past 
into sizes that fit the present. At the edge 
of what doesn’t seem like paradise, 
a myrtle had risen past a skyline. 
I still call you Myrtle, abandoning my grief 
as I complete your heaven with a fantasy. 
I call the shrub your name until it starts 
to look like you. Sometimes I am angry: 
I know what you’ve done with my hair 
inside a wine glass. We hold onto anything 
that reminds us of what we’ve lost. 
As I wake from a dream, lost are 
the pearlescent eyes that could see into 
tomorrow, could see the myrtle still 
stretching its body to reach the horizon. 
Memories are a still-life caught in snippets, 
framed in a glass, like my hair. 
They drag shared moments to my eyes, 
where your light touches me and the images 
re-form. There we are all together: mother, 
my brothers, Farid and Rayhan, 
playing hide and seek behind your back.  

From the writer

:: Account ::

These are poems born out of grief and the cel­e­bra­tion of our beloved daugh­ter Baha, whom we lost 21 days after her first birth­day. In writ­ing these poems I feel like I am hold­ing her in my hands. She is alive as grief, alive as mem­o­ry, alive as song. 


Sad­diq Dzuko­gi is the author of Inside the Flower Room, select­ed by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Gen­er­a­tion African Poets Chap­book Series. His recent poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in the Keny­on Review, Poet­ry Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, Gulf Coast, African Amer­i­can Review, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Dai­ly. He has won fel­low­ships from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka-Lin­coln and Ebe­di Inter­na­tion­al Writ­ers Residency.