Poems / March 18, 2024

Sentencing

Àkpà Árinzèchukwu

I stand outside
because I cannot go inside.

My mum has run out of love to give me.
If I desire so much to be purple

I could as well plant my own flowers.
Look at me outshining my country:

I didn’t kill a moth because it startled me.
I took it to a city of flowers,

wished upon its wings,
set them up against the wind,

from where my answers would soon come.
Before a begrudged audience,

I admitted am not a good man. I am selfish.
I have my father’s dentition, his regalia of shame.

Neither cheesing nor sadness can save me.
I smile, & the people who love me

are disappointed. How is it a dead man,
instead of laying still in his sleep, still

chooses to haunt us with his mistake?
They look at me, & it is not them who hurt.

It is the vase I filled with my love, hoping it
was everything my hibiscus needed to thrive.

I did not start a war I knew would be lost.
I took my kitten to the vet, read it the 1st Amendment.

I did not send a man to the moon to masturbate.
Bet, I dug my father out of his grave to mock him.

I did not evade tax.
I drank with a politician.

I poisoned myself to get rid of my father.
I am not a good man.

I’d sell my country for crumbs
if I ever had to protest for anything.

I am not a good man.
I sent a man to the moon in prose,

denied him in poetry. If I sent my father
flowers right in time for father’s day,

would they grow to obscure his memory of me,
or would their fragrance extinguish what is dead,

& set me free? I am a good man.
I made a man die for me, on the moon.

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Àkpà Árinzèchukwu is a 2023 Oxbelly Writing Retreat Fellow, a winner of the 2021 Poetry Archive Worldview Prize, a Best of the Net nominee, Pushcart, and Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, shortlisted for the FT/Bodley Head Prize, and a finalist for the 2020 Black Warrior Review Fiction Prize, his works appear in Kenyon Review, Adda, Transition, Black Warrior Review, Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus, Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He is the curator of Muqabalal, a bilingual conversation series, co-host of Muqabalal’s Poem a Day in Translation, and the Church of Poetry.

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