poem index

poet

Chris Abani

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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. 

by this poet

poem
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.
2
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
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