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About this Poem 

“I wrote this poem from the point of view of my mother. There were sometimes difficult moments between my parents, and I have since wondered how she mediated her pain and anger and what I would have done. It is really about the fact that our most ordinary moments are often poised on the edge of a very deep abyss and that only an uneasy grace keeps us from going over the edge.”
Chris Abani

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.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris Abani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Chris Abani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Chris Abani

Chris Abani

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). He is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. 

by this poet

poem
I set you free that night, father.
When you came back in that yellow Volkswagen,
in that dream.
I made a boat of honor for you.
Woven of poems and words and not words.
I set it on the ocean.
Father Obuna said to me,
a gift is freely given and a gift
is freely returned.
It has taken me thirty years
to understand
poem

The body is a nation I have never known.
The pure joy of air: the moment between leaping
from a cliff into the wall of blue below. Like that.
Or to feel the rub of tired lungs against skin-
covered bone, like a hand against the rough of bark.
Like that. "The body is a savage," I said.