The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Profile of mummy's head," New York Public Library Digital Collections.

In the house, the healer

coats their bald heads with

red mud, cements the demon back

to the upside down world,

friend-zoning the inmates again.

That stain from the bruised shadow is

said to come after

the three days of darkness, the days of

the coming of the Prince of Heaven; to

judge the living and the dead.

We will dig a hole in the ground,

a hole as gluttonous as the great wall,

for our house,

our goatsheds and the duck roosts, the

lamb, the ducklings, the kids,

our gods and our priests, those

that the gods did not fatten their corpses, especially,

all that have no shadows.

Awuru’s house shall stand;

he will farm away the stain, frenzied

from the wood nails he grew on his stepson’s head, and

the worms he has farmed from it for his day old chicks, and

they have fed, on and on, and

the roosters have grown several

conjoined combs and wattles.

Born in an open city,

butts as marshlands, Akwah sought

the same canal of his birth, bruised the

wall with fried fluids.

Okotombo sculpts stones, eating

the gods’ snakes in the feast of the sun.

We will dig in deeper and deeper, for

the Prince has little patience for hidden hearts.

There is a man child conceived to

break the ribbons, spread flower laurels

and multicolor shreds, by

the name conferred on him.

Let a cloud dwell upon the stain.

Those broken plates in Aleppo we

will hide under our beds, and use the

rest to make tattoos on our foreheads, as tribal people do;

make masks and Ikenga to scare away death.

I will build spiders with talons round

my mother’s hips: they will watch over

the night till the time’s end.

I head for hell at once, possessed by

the speech of sand;

the way, just before the house that

life occupies, a little away from death,

are shadows, made of several shades, often

falling and rising in the harmattan winds,

sometimes drunk on hard water.

I walk to the drunken wind to ferry me,

for my ink is filled with blood now and again, smelling of

ancient balms, flowing through the river,

filling itself again and again, eroding

waterwalls: memorialized in lethal bees,

drywalls and headless semen.

And the world will go on.

Man of Unamuno’s Solon,

why weep when it avails nothing?  

and that is precisely the truth of it all

the way we will continue to be grown and fertilized,

and to grow more and more, in the faith.

I have no debt to the worms except

wads of silk;

the cotton trees and the cotton rot are one,

Lear owes the cats many jars of perfumes, not me.

I owe the cats many long nights of wine.

The silkwads need not fill the grave, the sand always can.

And you mix the world at least, for the greatest beauty.

Ejiọfọr Ugwu

Ejiọfọr Ugwu lives and writes in Nsukka, Nigeria. His poetry chapbook The Book of God was selected by African Poetry Book Fund in collaboration with Akashic Books to be included in the 2017 New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set. His poetry and short fiction have been published in Guernica, African American Review, Drumtide Magazine, The New Black Magazine, ELSEWHERE Lit, Cordite Poetry Review, Sentinel Nigeria, The Kalahari Review, and The Muse, a journal of creative and critical writings at the University of Nigeria.