He Said I Can't Breathe
For Erica Garner
By Bola Opaleke
I said stay with me
& I will breathe for you.
make the chokehold
an intervention to save lives
& I will breathe for you yet again.
if your hands, already locked into your ancestors’,
are the Eagles grip that can never break free
then take everything you want
take every elbow & every baton
that fastened the rope of your life
to a wasteful forgetfulness & go.
only do not take the right arm
or the left, or whichever one is convenient
for a father to lead his daughter
down the aisle. I cry this once
because I never knew it would come to this
never knew you would this soon lay your strangled eyes
upon my shoulder & say: “never stop
dreaming, ma gal” as your casket dissolves
in alien tears like a god’s face hidden in a snow dust.
& did I not polish it into a brilliant shine –
your name’s long tail twirling around mine?
did I not succeed? did the gatekeepers not
fall in love with my gold coins & kept your boat
from sailing far before turning back to fetch me –
the ghostman’s treasure? did I not choose nature’s
chokehold as a parable for them that revel
in breathlessness? when I looked up to you
from the middle of the sea & said:
I can’t breathe. you said:
“stay with me & I will breathe for you.”
What Is Difficult to Explain
Is Not Difficult to Explain
By Bola Opaleke
everyone pretends to know where God lives
but no one has ever paid Him a visit.
a man asks another man “who is God?”
the glistening buds amongst growing weeds rustled,
they swore to have baby-weeds before the shears arrive.
the father says to his son “rain is another argument against imagination”
the nonplussed child jumps up, calls his father names
belonging to a weeping sky he says “keep the rain, I'll keep the imagination.”
after several calls to prayer have gone unheeded by either man
the older asks the younger “where has your faith taken you?” laughs.
“where the wind fill up the open mouths of thirsty hills and make them
sway like boats” the other replied, “how else do mountains praise God?”
afraid, the father looks for the seven reprisal stones to throw
at the devil but only sees his child. he washes his own feet
with the eastern earth and kisses the sun for forgiveness
on his son's behalf. a boy holds on to his mother’s feet, cries
until the night closed his eyes to her pain.
“forgive us, mother. forgive us” he says, pulling his siblings to their knees.
Bola Opaleke is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rising Phoenix Review, Writers Resist, Rattle, Cleaver, One, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, The Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, Dissident Voice, Poetry Quarterly, The Indianapolis Review, Miracle E-Zine, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, League of Canadian Poets (Poetry Month 2013), St. Peter’s College (University of Saskatchewan) Anthology (Society 2013 Vol. 10), Pastiche Magazine, and others. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg with his family.