The Arithmetic of Bullets
By Adamu Yahuza Abdullahi
Once, my brother mistakes our father's name for
death. say in Bokobaru, death and my father are
homonyms. which means, there is a day I call
my father’s name & his silhouette pours over me
like a broken tap & his body wilts into oblivion like
clusters of feathery clouds reading the odd days of winter.
which means, my father is the closest thing to a monsoon sky.
once, I naively call his name & he steps into a red dress,
into the redness of time.
This is not a poem about a boy melting into molten magma
in the Sahara of silence, or about how light pours out from
his body like an hour of migration. that night,
we wear the moon as cloth & the stars as lipstick—
bejeweling ourselves in the silk of silence counting the
piano keys. counting the beauty tomorrow beholds.
Our childish faces are tender like streetlights in Paris,
like the portrait of the moon rising over water. playing
hide and seek, my brother runs into his shadow & that
is how the rain dissolves his body into the Niger of putrid dreams.
Note: My brother begets the River Niger.
On the radio, the broadcaster's voice floats on the air
like shuffled firecrackers.
the headline nestles on my body & this is another
way to be reminded that we are three times heavier
than our bodies. so, father, before he turns into a
metaphor, forbids us from listening to radio &
watching the television—shut all the demigods to sleep.
Don’t tell him I spend my sweet
hours on the net, wandering all the ruins in God's
head. Once, I turn on my data to watch a football
match between all the blurred walls in Kemanji
—my brother, the window. he passes & stars
begin to fall on my phone’s screen.
Intravenous—my father's mouth, a doused star,
seeping into my vein. I hate IVs, but therein
lies my father playing the violin above us,
his smile fluttering into constellations, painting the house blue.
Outside, children sing bullets into their heads
like numbers, 123—like alphabets, ABCD.
my youngest sister—a goddess kissed by moonbeam—
now chants the arithmetic of bullets into a lullaby, into
dance. this is how we offer sacrifices to all the dreams
wasted, seasons upon seasons, & made
a home in the placenta center of our heads.
misery: in our house, we live like embers
because no one knows when and how the bullets
will sing us into another overture.
My sister wanders around, splitting into a lighthouse, &
wears too many colors:
blue; a kiss dropping
on the wrong cheeks.
violet; her cheeks, synonyms for wildfire.
black; the night closing her into a coffin.
white; her, a white mare in God's hand.
the last time I saw her wander like that, she held tomorrow
in her hands like an echo of a dream she is yet to have.
dreaming. that's what we say we are doing when a stranger
steps out of winter & offer us two
puddles of rain as compensation for all the missed light.
I mean, we are everything light refuses to touch. us,
colony of waves brushing over clutched breaths.
Hexagon; six days of writer's block, a cardboard of
glistening stars greens my tongue. I talk & my voice
hoarse like a marine god that has outpaced the
surface tension of water. In this poem, I am
trying to be careful, to not be morphed into a
double helix—to not be a voice in the whispering
of storms. I don't want to fall into red, into the
Mediterranean of dissected dreams.
I’m learning how to open, how to be a synonym for
beauty, like twilight shimmering through mist.
I, too, want a life colorful enough to make a
rainbow hide in shame.
Adamu Yahuza Abdullahi, TPC V, is an Alumni of the SprinNG Writing Workshop, a budding poet, a student union activist and a community development advocate from Kwara State, Nigeria. He is also a Columnist at Borgu Online. He studies botany at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in journals/magazines, including but not limited to Eunoia Review, Brittle Paper, Angel Rust, Kalahari Review, Ngiga Review, Rogue Agent, Ninshar Arts, Oneblackboylikethat Review, mixed magazine, Konyashamsrumi, Teen Lit Journal, Arts Lounge, Pine Cone Review and Borgu Book Club. In addition, he is a nominee for the Best of the Net prize and was shortlisted for the Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation's poetry and short short story contest. Besides coffee & flowers, he is obsessed with the fragrance of printed leaves of books. He tweets at @AdamuYahuzaabd2 and he's on Facebook as 'Adamu Yahuza Abdullahi'.