Akpa Arinzechukwu: Three Poems

Riley Montana by Chris Colls, W Magazine. Source: wmagazine.com

riley montana slaps the runway

behind the scene it is 30°C

the same temperature a body doesn’t need

to start decomposing—

the body sashays away in a blue blazer

catwalks to a stop in a dirndl

hundred irises of a palazzo

& when the body stops it stops only

to let the world have a view of itself through the bow-bridge of legs

my brother could never do better even though he thinks he could

when you are hanging by the rope

you think you are more things than something

everything is possible still

the summer sun at noon running behind a smog

doesn’t mean in forevermore a dead dog will always bark


Coping Mechanism

When you died, time stopped for us.

The clock ticked zero at noon.

Something in us tried living as—

Only the living know the right way to live—

In the darkness of ​your room 

We sought for the last echo of your voice;

The shrewd whimper of your breath leaving this earth

The vague memory of what a good night looked like

Before the lights were blown & the nightmares unleashed.

The day you left, Cub, we switched on the television to see

A mother over a dead child asking God where he is.

It happened like this: your cold body hanging from the ceiling,

Your name beneath, too sour to enter our mouths, too important to leave.

We switched the television off immediately.

God above was in the parlour of our thoughts. God! we called

& neither you nor he answered.



when you forget

does loss come to you as earth

worthy of our recovering


a mist

in the day’s eye

to be cleared


from the windowpane of insomnia

as the wind returns to the north

& love is just but a dying person’s only known geography—

the desert encroachment of our existence—

the avalanche of our tears &

the floodgates of accusations

from Valhalla to purgatory to

Atlantis to the last breath


when it all ends

will the birds still love me enough to sing?


our neighbour went out one day

& returned with a boy named steve


our dog’s name before the sun hid itself from us

there are so many ways to forget a night

we know only how to open the eyes

to keep remembering away

like the night my brother will never forget

whereof alone in the fields with the heat

steve pressed his juicy lips against his

the stars didn’t twinkle nonstop

heaven burned

& he could swear the man with an axe in the moon jumped

& steve barked nonstop

that was how the clairvoyant told us our futures

& we learned a bird must be dead to live happily


Akpa Arinzechukwu is a Nigerian writer and translator dealing with their numerous identities. Their works have been published in or forthcoming from Prairie Schooner, Transition, The Southampton Review, Sou’wester, Brittle Paper, Kabaka Magazine, Burning House Press, Out/Cast, 20/35 African Anthology, 2017 African Best Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. They were shortlisted/longlisted for the FT/Bodley Head Essay Prize, Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction and Diana Wood Creative Nonfiction Award.