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About this poet

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. 

Renewal [Excerpt]

Chris Abani

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 this.
Yemenya has your heart now.
May she be merciful.
May she love you.
The wound bleeds no more.
Which is to say,
what I have desired is like salt
left out all night and gone.

This is not a lamentation, damn it.
This is a love song.
This is a love song.
Like reggae—it all falls on the off beat.
If there is a way, it is here.
They say you cannot say this in a poem.
That you cannot say, love, and mean anything.
That you cannot say, soul, and approach heaven.
But the sun is no fool, I tell you.
It will rise for nothing else.

From Sanctificum. Copyright © 2010 by Chris Abani. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

From Sanctificum. Copyright © 2010 by Chris Abani. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

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

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.

poem

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