The ash-skinned men with rifles longer than their legs
Click their tongues & haggle over prospects of tender
Breasts beneath their palms. Their bellies — cinched &
Tucked & belted — burst with mama’s jollof. Tongues
Loosened with palm wine beg for girl-wives to dine &
Sleep under. A cough masks a prayer from between
Mama’s teeth. Two misplaced sniffs & they
Might’ve smelled our fear in the shadows. Another way:
One flip of the switch & a moth dies or
Three girls find their backs forced to the ground, metal or skin pressed
To their lips. Until a soldier tastes the sweat from his own brow
A girl in wartime is barely missed. She is
A rumor, a dream in a rifle butt, cannon fodder
For shadow harvesters. Here then there. Here then there.
Mama’s jollof is one hour more of freedom. Two cups
Of palm wine an afternoon of his salt never touching our hips.
In the stillness, we pull the fear from our tongues &
Wrap it tight in our fists — here, then there, then nowhere.
.chisaraokwu. (her/she) is an American Nigerian poet, actress & healthcare futurist. Her works have been published in Obsidian, Tinderbox, Contemporary Verse 2, Glass: A Journal of Poetry and others. She enjoys a good thunderstorm and the rainbows that come after. She splits her time between the US & Italy.