Mgbabor Emmanuel Chukwudalu

grief as a souvenir

imagine holding a shovel to your trachea,

clueless. imagine trapping a blade


in the closet of your fist, clueless, & watch

your palm bloom into a cauldron of red. 


quiet reader, i must confess, every poem

is a rot stretching in the brain: a graffiti 


of ache. every night, i balm the wound 

spreading on my chest & it blues into


a shimmering lake. so when i say i am 

an arrow shot through the neck of grief,


i mean grief, too, is a tangible thing.

say, how do you uproot the ache & spare


the boy// & not shatter this body fumbling

for a chapel of grace? i am twenty


& the stars no longer shelter my dreams.

don’t you think i am too young to perform


grief like a well memorized script? 

i sit in the corridor of this verse, combing at


my eyeballs with a scythe, till they rainbow

into something beautiful.  maybe 


i am just as absurd as the metaphor. 

even the syllables of this poem are too 


brittle to swallow without drawing blood.

i hold this ache as a specimen under 


a microscope. sometimes, all grief does is

to kiss a gun barrel to the roof of a mouth, 


& watch the cerebrum become an

outburst of beautiful confetti.

mother, i became a burning city overnight

                                              —for Ernest Ogunyemi


mother, i am alive again

in the palm of this poem/ my tears are

crystals shattering on the windowpane/ 

like a swatted roach, a skylark falls off my

chest/ dead/ the grenade of grief exploding 

in my marrows/ i swear, 

a lot has changed in me since God

pruned you off my life/ i skipped sunday

masses twice because each time

 the holy communion kisses my tongue,

it morphs into hot coal/ 

sets me ablaze/ drags fire down

my throat till i become a burning city/


truth is: i have paid more attention 

to the music in my bones/ & struck my

veins like guitar strings/ my tear glands

have grown hunchbacks from carrying paradoxes/

mother, there are days i want to give myself 

to the arms of a noose & hiccup 

my life/ to feel death’s hook reach for 

my chest & beg the flesh to peel itself into

a wound:


a body becomes Titanic navigating 

the Atlantic for a home/ the iceberg of grief

crashing into its ribs/


mother, the best i could do for you is

to pluck a poem & gift it a voice/ thrice,

i tore this poem & fed it to grandma’s goats/

fed them the storm/ 

but i promise to keep this one/ to hold it

as a souvenir/ each time my body begs

for a bosom to crawl into.


Mgbabor Emmanuel Chukwudalu

Mgbabor Emmanuel Chukwudalu, Frontier XIII, is a 1st Runner-up in the POETICALLY-WRITTEN PROSE (2021) organized by PIN Initiative. His works have been widely read in various magazines and journals, including: The Shallow Tales Review, Wine Cellar Press mag, The African Writers review, amongst others. Currently, he reads poetry for LERIMS magazine.