Chisom Okafor

Chisom Okafor
is a Nigerian poet, nutritionist and dietitian. He was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry in 2018, the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019 and the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize in 2020. His work appears in the Indian Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, SAND Journal, Ghost City Review, Jacar One and elsewhere. He presently works as Chapbook Editor for the Libretto Chapbook Series.


Some places become homes by habit

What is greater: the distance between
these bodies, or their need?

            ─ Leila Chatti.

I know, by science, the exact time it takes to row from one end of this river to the point
where it glides into the Atlantic, somewhere off the distant islands of São Tomé.

I know, provided the energy exerted between two equal strokes of the paddle remains
constant, what it takes to sail across vast swathes of water, unmarked

except by seals of light in the dying sun. One day, bathed in sun­spill and a shade
of orange like the yolk of an egg, I rowed with my lover to a place

where none but the river hawks could find us ─ as they journeyed home in formation,
after the day’s labour ─ where you could see the pebbles, brown

and slippery, nestled closely underneath the clear body of water. Here, we stopped to wait
for deep into nightfall, when we’d let ourselves be struck by the gold

plummet of the moon, while the reverberations overpowered us in a nocturnal symphony,
and the damp smell of decaying timber rose like a thousand voices

from the body of our fisherman’s boat. My lover had thrown little stones into the river,
to see the ripples spread apart and dissolve within in a circumference,

then in ­between strokes of the paddle, I heard him whisper to the evening air: in this place
of waters, every gay man is a gambler, throwing a random dice

with his own life as wager, after which  he disappeared through a trapdoor and would
never be seen again. But tonight, as I look up to the full moon

in its bright elegance, it seems as though he’s back to lean again, against the hairy layers
of my chest, drawing imaginary vignettes with the tips of his fingers

as we let the canoe navigate itself away from questioning eyes, as yet again, we return home
to a familiar smell, but also to a new aching and begin again,

the simple rites of floatation.




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