Sunday, August 1, 2021
RIDGE OF THE LAST VERSE
Shhhhh! This is how she tamed a roaring lion.
Akanke let him get himself lost
in the forest of her shhhhh. Pull him
closer & closer until he disappears between
The weight of his face
concealed. Wherein the child mothers
the child, not even the blood moon
to stop the leaf that carries
the branch. He looks upward
to seek the face of mercy, licks shhhhh then
is no longer where
he used to live. Akanke could have
just tipped him over into his next life
but thought instead:
what use is a lion
reduced to limbless frog? If this planet
is any hint, beasts would still be
in the afterlife. She knows
he can only just whistle, not
roar. Tells him, the road from the forest
like the tongue of a snake.
Tells him, there is no coming back
from the shhhhh wherein he is fated to vanish.
Guilt sometimes runs its fingers
down my spine the way a soldier runs his finger
down a map. I have lived inside a coffin
all my life. It suits the death my grief ignites.
I tried, but can no longer say, “Please, forgive me”
without first bending toward the ashen earth
to kiss the low clouds of helplessness. The soldiers,
they came in hundreds inside the yard where children play
boju-boju oloro nbo. They pulled off my clothes.
They vandalized the road on my body leading back home.
Tell me, how do you love a country laughing
at your pain? In the kitchen, undressed
on the wet floor, its shadow is the same as a man holding a gun.
Someday, a child will feel the guilt of leaving
his parents but not the shame of abandoning his home.
Dogs barking violently at naked women–
their hands tied to the back. They said, we’re wrong.
They have groomed them to always say, “it’s our fault”.
The dogs yelling at a little girl, “open it,
open the damn door”. Her tiny hand cannot
even reach the knob. She screams, hand clutching the air,
Baba, e gba mi, then her body gives. Night
begins to fall from her hair. Is this not how my country pounces
upon my soul? A girl crying & crying inside my head.
Her ghost not understanding that, me too, I’m living inside a coffin.
*Baba, e gba mi, translates to the English as: Father, save me
Bola is the author of Skeleton of a Ruined Song. Winner of 2020 Thomas Morton Prize in Poetry. A few of his poems have appeared or forthcoming in journals like Prairie Fire, Frontier Poetry, Rattle, CBC Books, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, The Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, and many more. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg MB. Bola is currently Arts Community Director with Winnipeg Arts Council Board of Directors.
The women’s naked body is a portion of eternity too great for the eye of man
- William Blake
Language neurologically blazes and condenses as an operatic sundial suddenly spinning. Thus sonic irrigation transpires and becomes material confluence transmuting in human cells.
The ANNUNCIATION of the ΦONEMIC BODY
once below a time
i was like-
-them protein bags: wrinkled sacks of bowels and bones
every nine months
though in my nightdreams
naked cyborgs sung to me
gigantic transparent snakes
flooded my earshot
in the midst of this dark chaos:
the prima materia
of human flesh and plastic
my own corpse appeared
ablaze on an operating theater:
a young woman’s body
enclosed by θroat singing trolls
chanting in polyphonic overtones
medical robots rewrote my skin
white coats re-spun my nervous system
my eyelids cracked open
the morning after
under my skin
waved inside my womb
pisces with decibel-scales
their invisible fins
an alien syntax
as if resurrected
long gone extinct
on the first day of the 6th month
after march 25th
the day bodies of
rivers of asphalt
et ecce concipies in utero
ohne dich kann
i was human
parents and grandparents
brothers & sisters loved & hated me
i birthed a baby boy i detested
alas on the 6th month
my new genitals chanted hallelujah
in a meltdown of female sighs
my skin appeared
stroke my silicon nipples
kiss my plastic lips
be perplexed by my lexical fluidity
on the 9th month
when i entered labor
celestial triangles penetrated circles
circles stroked squares
the letter φ kissed the letter χῖ
water was seduced to disrupt
fig trees peeled & devoured their own fruit
can never be reduced
to one or two
like my punctuation:
this silicon body
gifted with perpetual regeneration
in constant φonemic expansion
& my adjectives
they’re watching astral winds!
lingual hailstorms in black holes
against a relentless human skull
my φonemic body was announced by the oblique
its lexical tentacles
burrowed in human skin
observe zillions of swarming infixes
spiraling up humanity’s spine
undulating around one’s neurotransmitters
undulating around one’s phonemes
his φonemic body
this one true body
when one tries looking
into all its eyes
like a spider’s:
this plastic body
with its multiple φantom-genitals
will rub against the orifices of masculinity:
four billion men will orgasm against their will
& when they do
they’ll have no other choice
than to speak to me
in one contracted voice
whispering sweet words in my ear
perhaps three times
perhaps seven times
& when they do
millions of splendiferous voices
will sprout in their heads
singing songs from the future
songs sung without consonants
songs of innocence
Some nights are inevitable. Perhaps it’s the wine. You’re not sure. Maybe you’re dreaming. Tripping? Do you really care? You don’t seem to. At least not now, you don’t. Yet these inevitable nights have something profound. Upon realizing this you get your usual fit of stupidity, and El susto embarks on its journey of slowly encroaching upon you.
“Is this the beginning of a yet-to-be discovered form of madness?”
You look at all the women’s magazines lying disorderly on your bed. You wonder: “What if the pictures would talk to me – or worse – laugh at me?” and the image of an old mad uncle pops up in your head. He claimed he knew the difference between dreaming, hallucinating and making up stories. He died in an insane asylum. Your family tried mourning him, but empathy isn’t their field of expertise.
Next you don’t really know why, but you find yourself counting all the cute little memories you accumulated during your many travels. After you convinced yourself that some or perhaps most of these memories are ridiculous, you think about your many habits, and count these. Probably it’s the wine. Yes, blame the wine.
During these inevitable nights, you usually contemplate the many reasons why you never took pictures. Everyone is taking pictures nowadays. You hate showing photos to family and friends. The idea of telling tall tales or mundane anecdotes appalls you. You glance once more at your magazines. You feel relieved. The gorgeous women crusted into photoshopped images aren’t laughing at you.
“What if I forget an important habit?” is the next question you’re considering. This consideration triggers another attack of stupidity. You look at your magazines and relax. The photos are still mute.
Not so long ago when one could still go out and about, these nights seemed less inevitable. “What if the whole of who I am,” you carry on reflecting, “has been built around many little habits?” It occurs to you that some of these habits seem rooted in words like “here.” During inevitable nights you catch yourself fantasizing about exiting “here” and go “there,” and perhaps never come back “here.”
This fort und da from “here” to “there” annoys you. Anger wells up from somewhere in your lower abdomen. If you’d smoke you’d spark up a cigarette, but you don’t smoke. You quit smoking. Instead you drink. Drinking, however, is a habit you want to forget.
Take a look at your magazines, but don’t blame yourself that you didn’t take pictures.
In spite of all well-meant advices, you’re still furious at both your absent lover and your absent spouse. “They should have taken at least one picture,” you raise your voice at nobody in particular, because, after all, you are alone. Another one of your stupidity attacks. Look at your magazines. There’s nothing going on there. Or is there?
“Suppose you’d actually go mad, how would you know?”
All your mad family members start popping up in your head one by one. That scares you. You’ve lost count.
Wait a second. Take a deep breath, and look at your women’s magazines. Anybody there laughing at you? Talking to you? Of course not, stupid.
Still you whisper, “nobody cares.” Again, you feel angry at both your absent lover and your absent spouse. If you’d smoke, you’d light up a cigarette, but you don’t smoke. You drink. You gaze at your magazines. This time you decide to look longer than usual. You stare. You try feeling if you’re losing it. Nothing. Instead anger’s welling up.
A few moments later, you observe yourself looking at the space around you with greater intensity. You look at the walls, your furniture, books, pictures, magazines. You even pay attention to the insects you never bothered to relocate. You stare at the spider. It hasn’t moved for months. You also stare at the little lizard that’s been dwelling here with you from the time you first moved here. Glance at the magazines. Nothing, but your mouth’s talking to the photos, louder and louder until you realize you’re pretty much screaming at your magazines.
You halt for a second, lower your voice and whisper, “stupid magazines, stupid uncle.”
“The difference between him and me is that I have money,” you tell the lizard while staring into his eyes. You think he’s male. The lizard turns his head a little, but you aren’t sure. You come closer. “Has he moved at all?” you ask yourself. His eyes are staring right back at you.
What are you looking at crazy lizard?
“I have money, you know,” you yell at the lizard. He undulates off and hides behind the cupboard.
All this excitement has made you nervous. This forces you to get up. You pace around in your room, exit, walk through the drawing room, pass the living room into one of your other bedrooms and stop at the window. Nothing to see, of course, why would there be?
You giggle a little bit to yourself while thinking about the magazines. This thought makes you run, as if your life depends on it, toward the magazines, and you scream at the top of your voice:
“I’m not afraid.”
”Stupid bastards” you’re saying to yourself, pacing around your room.
“I know you don’t give a shit.”
I don’t need anyone. Fuckers. Idiots. I don’t need you.
You pace faster and faster in the direction of the cupboard behind which the lizard hid: “I have money, stupid lizard.”
scared, aren’t you?” you yell in the gap between the wall and the closet and
laugh hysterically at exactly the spot where the lizard disappeared.
You open the cupboard and see a stack of folded white shirts.
These aren’t mine, you think, feeling irritated.
“Again?” you shout. “Again they have put someone else’s shirts in my cupboard?”
Fuckers. Idiots. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.
You don’t know if it’s because today the night is inevitably inevitable, but you decide to carefully examine the clothes. First, however, you need check the magazines: nothing to see there. Now go to where the lizard disappeared.
“You see, I’m not crazy,” you whisper into the gap.
Next you take the shirts out one by one.
Who wears such ridiculous shirts?
“Idiots.” Your whisper turns into a scream: “Where the hell do these shirts come from?” The decibels of your voice startle you. You become furious again at both your absent husband and your absent lover.
both of them, ” you hear yourself say, “and the lizard too.
Holding a shirt in your hand, you notice a tiny wet spot emerging on the tissue and then another one and another one. You realize you’re sobbing.
“I hate them both,” you whisper to yourself.
“Are these yours?” you ask.
“Tell me, sweetheart, please tell me, love, are these yours?”
More spots appear on the shirt you’re holding now, wrinkled and wet. Your sobbing intensifies: tears running down your cheeks land on the shirt. You bury your face into the shirt. Your cries get louder and louder.
You look up in the direction of the spot where the lizard disappeared, and you yell, “I loved them, once, both of them, stupid lizard.”
Your scream becomes a whisper: “I loved them both.”
A few seconds later you say to yourself: “Is tonight a dark-red night? Or is it a light-red night?”
I quit drinking, didn’t I?
You pace and pace and pace, this time in all directions: out of “here” and into “there,” out of the living room and into another bedroom. Quick glance at the magazines.
You shout: “I’m not crazy,” and you laugh and laugh and laugh.
Now you are running as fast as you can: one room into another and back into the first one.
“Idiots, I am going to teach you a lesson. How dare you? Putting your clothes in my cupboard. You disgust me.”
At last you arrive in the kitchen. There you seem to calm down a bit. From that angle you meticulously scrutinize the drawers of the closet. After a half a minute or so, you run to the cupboard and open the drawer with one quick jerk.
“Is it because of these strange nights or because of the bad wine?” You don’t know, but again you wonder: “Am I dreaming or hallucinating?” You chuckle at this question, look into the drawer, grab the large knife you usually keep for these kinds of nights, run toward the magazines, jump up and land on your knees on the bed. The magazines are right between your legs. You stab, stab, stab, till all the gorgeous women are shred to pieces.
“Try talking to me now, bitches!”
Exhausted you light up a cigarette and pour yourself another glass of your favorite wine.
“It’s late,” you whisper. The essay in the magazine about nail polish that you are reading can’t hold your attention.
Once again I’ve landed in one of these strangely inevitable nights, you observe your brain think.
A little lizard is running for his life at the other side of your room.
The spider disappeared.
A large knife is resting on your night table.
You switch off the light.
Originally trained in clinical psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, Giorgia Pavlidou is an American writer and painter intermittently living in the US and elsewhere in the world. She received her MA in Literature from Lucknow University, India and her MFA in Fiction from MMU Manchester, UK, (though her meetings with LA poet-philosopher Will Alexander have been/are exceedingly more impactful). Her work has recently appeared in such places as Caesura, Lotus-Eater, Zoetic Press, Maintenant Dada Journal, Puerto del Sol, Entropy and Thrice Fiction. She’s the main English language editor of SULΦUR literary magazine and of The Room, and has a chapbook forthcoming with Trainwreck press. Additionally, Ireland-based Strukturiss Magazine selected her as the main artist of their January 2022 issue 3.1. Before devoting herself full-time to painting and writing, she worked as a clinical psychotherapist for about ten years.