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Body Honed With Memories

My feet were yawning in the ground

as winter came for my body like a fox,

and lodged its claws inside me until

my nostril hair froze like lakeside sweetgrass

pushing up out of ice. I moved my fingers around

my face. I could not feel the softness of places

blood pulses through. To enlighten you

I’ll tell you how I reduced myself to a bulk

of flesh under the shower, full of god,

striving to survive. The blood in my body

coalesced to a standstill, too long outside,

the helms of my bones were irritated. In my mouth

my teeth ground the garlic my lover

catechized me to swallow.

My body warmed up as water coursed

through my skin, unfreezing the memory

gathered from my grandmother’s mouth:

my mother’s breasts did not offer milk

for my slavering mouth. Grandmother

grabbed a tin of Ovaltine from a kiosk

to snuff out my hunger. I put my mouth

on the nipple of the feeding bottle,

in my mind, it was my mother’s body.

Grandmother watched until more flesh grew

over my bones. She teases me still,

how my stomach grumbled, how in her hands

I was the size of a giant, a lizard.

Voiced with precision, a body can live

through a story it’s been told, like that night,

when hurled from my mother’s hands, I nearly

drowned inside a tulu. I was eight months old,

but I remember water flooding my throat—

because my fever survived many sponge baths.

On my own I could not find this memory,

but grandmother told it so vividly

that my body remembers. What I remember

on my own: Father was a bread winner

that won only crumbs. Grandmother was a ghost

I couldn’t take my eyes off,

each time she walked into our house,

wrapped in her gyale, to slip Naira notes

into my father’s Kaftan pockets.


SADDIQ DZUKOGI is the author of Your Crib, My Qibla (University of Nebraska Press, 2021). His chapbook Inside the Flower Room was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Oxford Review of Books, Poetry Society of America, Gulf Coast, African American Review, Prairie Schooner, and Verse Daily. In 2017, Saddiq was a finalist for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska where he is currently studying for a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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