What words can you wrap around a dying brother, still dying, even now. A man who has not eaten for a month sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift. He asks what other gifts God has given him. I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner. And he smiles and rasps— you can only unwrap a child once.
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Poet of an Ordinary Heartbreak
Who hasn’t been tempted by the sharp edge of a knife?
An ordinary knife cutting ordinary tomatoes on
an ordinary slab of wood on an ordinary Wednesday.
The knife nicks, like a bite to the soul. A reminder
that what is contemplated is as real as the blood
sprouting from a finger. As real as a bruised eye.
Instead turn back to the meat stewing on the stove.
Scrape pulpy red flesh into the heat and turn.
Say: even this is a prayer. Even this.
Chris Abani is the author of There Are No Names for Red (Red Hen Press, 2010), illustrated by Percival Everett, and Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Born in Nigeria, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Board of Trustees Professor of English and comparative literary studies at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago.