by Othuke Isaac Umukoro

Cooking my country

My poet grandfather said
cooks & poets share a chemistry—
both have a propensity to burn things.
I peel my country nicely as you would
peel new yams, slice the leviathan
corruption I gathered from the news
last night & parboil for few minutes.
Depression is a spice. It’s all coddling.
I’m not cooking for every goddamn person.
While cooking my country I am also
listening to the radio. A new song is playing
& I am thinking how every (really) good
song is a stubborn poem that got away.
I have been to the slaughterhouse: plucked
the burning bodies off the streets of Borno;
garnished them with red pepper; with the
nightmares that never sleep in Zamfara
& Benue & Baga; with the human rights
rotting in our dank and eyeless cells; with all
the pillars of burnt dreams.
I chop my onions & cabbage
& carrots & our fragmented voices
digested by the Mediterranean.
The song is still playing. This song reminds
me of the first time I kissed a boy—tasted of honey.
I never told my father about him, about his
hands round my tiny waist under the
covers of twilight: in my father’s house you do
not speak of bodies that are marked graves.
I pour 114ml of groundnut oil on the
heated pan & fry our memories.
My secret ingredient is silence. It fills the kitchen,
like opulence, when I add it to the steamy brew.
The song has died & I am thinking how
every poet I know is a terrible
cook (including my grandfather)
that watched
a country burn & wrote poetry,
that watched a country burn & wrote poetry.


a list of places to find God in my country

first time i saw God was in the eyes of the doctor who refused to treat my dying sister’s body because it is a trans body. but now is not the day or poem to talk about my sister’s dying body. dying lights know God is in our currency in our chambers, our disgraceful chambers, in the lions of our house, our house of wolves, our house of prophets, prophets of the gospel of loot. in the eyes of Ikemefuna before Okonkwo cut him down in one terrible blow; Goliath has risen, oh Israel where is thy saviour—you who have murdered all your Davids? in the fleeting eyes of a city before it burns, never again to un-ash. in the eyes of children named after the ghosts of their fathers. in our mothers, grief nailed to their memories. in our daughters, sunflowers reeking of innocence raped drugged raped drugged repeat sold as Jezebels on the shameful streets of Europe. in our illustrious sons before they become manna sold in Libya for $400 or corpses suffix-ed in the belly of the sea. in my people: sandwiched between an  exodus & the long shadow of death. in blood haunted villages. in our election. you think he will not be there. oh God is a politician. he is. always. running. lying. running. lying. in ghost-ridden crossroads where people who persecute evil disappear into dark eyeless prisons. in churches, mosques, schools preaching dead salvation dead poets amplifying an echo cut down like wilting bouquets (y)our resurrection set ablaze in the fading lights of city burning in the mouth of a bullet before it swallows a dream. in me shadow outside shadow in the wreaths before this burning city in my 86 year old grandfather. shot in the eyes left in the cold. shot in the eyes left in the cold. i still remember the exact spot outside half the yellow moon where earth unwilling to receive him ran.


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