Poetry by Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

“Desk Light” by Sara Weininger / saraweininger.com


Ennui for the Things I Can Trace and Feel


You know the flavours of your loneliness and tears.
They come like rabbits asking for a summer night.
There is nothing more terrifying
than not knowing the width of your past.
You search in your history about the desert flowers
writhing your reading table
and the handles of your memories.
You search your tongue for your history evidences
knowing that this language is not even yours
and you are using it.
You place a pint of progress at your door,
you want everyone to know
the shadows of your shaking ribs.
You see me and recognize how much
you can grow in my eyes and touches.
Bless these glowing moments
as we look for the pockets of our present.
You carry your country’s name like a barcode:
its questions you find the answers supple
the glaring energy in your wants. And
sometimes, you fear that you’re not living right.
And your heart keeps hurting like an upside-down ampersand.
You are so familiar with tastes that
now your childhood and home don’t taste
like the moment your navel cord was cut.





Something in my history keeps calling my name.
Calling my name with a fibrous voice.
Calling my name with a mouth filled
With patches of Ozymandias' ruins.
With my history, I grow questions in the lines of my understandings.
Too: I have been trying to understand the analogues in my country's name,
So I follow the books and the stories.
I know stories are good enough to lead me to my ancestors,
But I have never seen one complete enough to fill me up.
How does one relate well with his past in the present?
How does one find something close yet never near?
I am by my country's flag asking for purpose:
I have traced its moments back to the day
History was cut-off from its curriculum.
It makes me afraid of the future, of my sons,
Of my daughters and friends and functions.
I am afraid.
Afraid of this place rolling and rolling
Into the unknown.
Something in my history keeps calling my name.
I am following the call into this poem.
Following it to the moment I feel ashamed
For how my place has been
knee-knocked by our hands into torn lappas.



Translation Guide for a Boy between Places


I have stopped looking for myself in dreams.
I long to see things
Deliver perfectly what they promise.
Isn’t it funny how we keep thinking
Having no money ends at the country’s border?
I’ve learnt how to unrupture beneath
The poems asking me how to define dead dolphins.
If this piece makes any sense to you,
Does it mean we have postcards for same experience?
Every little thing asks for my attention.
Every little thing asks for my tongues.
What does it mean to wolf in a house?
I do not wonder how familiar I am with
The beast basking by my marrow’s fireplace.
I want to be kissed by a rose in the blue.
Hell is not the lines in my palms.
The briefness in a lovemaking is the hardest to forget.
When my father visits in my dreams, I do not speak.
I do not speak for I couldn’t find the mouth
To tell about the owls flaunting the country’s flag.
Each of my mother’s stares points me away from the sea.
When I say I want to unweak,
I’m looking for the light in your eyes:
I do not want it to be that I ask for directions
And still get lost.

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto (@ChinuaEzenwa) is from Owerri-Nkworji in Nkwerre, Imo State, Nigeria, and grew up between Germany and Nigeria. He has a chapbook, The Teenager Who Became My Mother (Sevhage Publishers, 2020). He became a runner-up for the Etisalat Prize for Literature for flash fiction in 2014. He won the Castello di Duino Poesia Prize for an unpublished poem in 2018, which took him to Italy. He was the recipient of New Hampshire Institute of Art’s 2018 Writing Award and a 2018 scholarship to their MFA Program in Writing. In 2019, he was the winner of the Sevhage/Angya Poetry Prize and second runner-up in the 5th Singapore Poetry Contest. He won the first prize in the Creators of Justice Literary Award, poetry category, organized by the International Human Rights Art Festival in New York in 2020. His works have appeared in Lunaris Review, AFREADA, Poet Lore, Rush Magazine, Frontier Poetry, Palette Poetry, The Malahat Review, Southword Journal, Vallum Magazine, Mud Season Review, Salamander Magazine, Strange Horizons, One, Ake Review, Crannóg Magazine, The Question Marker, and elsewhere.