Poems by Saddiq Dzukogi
———-And the horseman, with a somber look says:
I remember Aby,
———-my father, teaching me to skin a lamb.
I remember sitting
———-in the courtyard of kings, kneading a giant limb
of meat in a basin of spices. He had skinned
——————–the first lamb in utter silence, all by himself.
Come, come boy. I ran to him,
——————–taking away from his hands the slaughter-knife
glistening with blood
———-of the lamb. Aby said you can do it on a flat surface
but I like to suspend it in air like so. The wounded throat
——————–still spitting out blood, he grabbed the dead thing
and hangs it by its hind—legs
——————–tied like two siblings who have lived apart
their whole existence. From one season to another,
——————–the benumbed, dangling like the hand of time.
Above the ankle joint, with my mother’s sharp knife,
——————–he lay a shallow incision down the belly
cutting through muscle to the bone. Warily,
——————–with the ardent precision of a master poet’s language
you must cut around its genital, Yazid, around its anus
———-and the surrounded tissue, you must dump
all into the bucket of the discarded.
——————–Say they are humanity’s wasteland.
His callused fingers bowled into a fist,
——————–continued to punch skin away from flesh,
working from the belly towards the legs,
——————–pulling skin from body, like the hands that must let go
at the twilight of a goodbye—
———-peeling skin from muscle like a somber wife’s body
from the hands of her warrior lover. Over its head,
——————–it finally came apart like two wildernesses
born of the same estate. Revealing the naked meat
——————–of the animal. Revealing. Allah’s world
of wonder: its heart, its lungs,
——————–its bile. I remember
Aby—supplicating, making du’a
——————–on the dried peel of the lamb.
The Shortest Road Home
By a spilled bag of popcorn,
———-a conference of squirrels also,
curds of skim milk lie innocently,
———-seasoned, on a plate.
I imagine a boy playing harmonica
———-in the dark, where the road bend
towards my apartment. In the snow,
———-my feet like a harrow. I remember
my father’s heart, my mother’s harem—
———-a place of her sanctuary,
how we, too, like squirrels
———-conferenced around him,
my daughter pulling his grey
———-beards. Of our lives
in our country of no squirrels
———-or winter, of no coyotes
or Nebraska animal, I see
———-how far home lies, how close
distance feels when I speak
———-and hear my grandmother
both of us, through the mouths
———-and ears of our cellphones.
I planted, on another’s land,
———-red burgundy okra seeds.
The aroma of mother’s stew
———-sings in my garden. Her patte
dish, made of sorghum or
———-sometimes, wheat. Her beef kebab,
her evening corn drink, her hibiscus
———-juice crowded with ice cubes.
Memory is now the shortest road
———-home. How I keep the ones I am
so separated from,
———-close in an embrace
of longing. There are many conflicts
———-only distance could reconcile.
Grief sharpens its teeth to bite you
———-when you least expect. Often,
Facebook reminders ravages my grief-
wound with the salt of memory. Baha, I swear
———-I will stop writing about your death, about grief or
even about writing. But in this photo
your body is still part of our bodies, and your
———-smile, still something traceable on your lips.
Here I am, again, at a desk with my anguish
facing the shadows of a white paper.
———-I wish your body is more than language,
more than music, more than memory. Just more.
But it comes down to, choice—and where
———-grief is distance. What choice do I have
but the ephemeral—this picture on my memory
feed, with your mother’s head resting on mine
———-and your own head, slightly positioned below ours
on your pillow. All of us holding a cynical pout
on our faces. Our bodies miss the warmth
———-of your body. The light you left, burns bright—
still in the wilderness of our hearts.
Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet and Asst. professor of English at Mississippi State University. He is the author of Your Crib, My Qibla (University of Nebraska Press, 2021), winner of the 2021 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, and the 2022 Julie Suk Award. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships from the Nebraska Art Council, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pen America, and Ebedi International Residency. His poetry is featured in various magazines including POETRY, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Guernica, Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, and Prairie Schooner. Saddiq lives and writes from Starkville, Mississippi.