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.