For We Who Speak of the Living

by Anthony Okpunor


I have found you, therefore there is need to walk backwards.
You will be surprised how many people will feed you charms
when you speak through your teeth.
I didn’t say, but I needed someone
who could sit close to where my heart was, and just breathe.
People sometimes will leave you with a surprise.
I remember the farm where I grew up.
We lived close to a bush, and there were days it was on fire.
I’m not talking about how you prepare a stage
for a man about to be betrayed.
To get the lyric, the birds must be willing to rebel.
As the bush burned, so did their words:
the cello crashing from a tree top.
I mean to say the fire chased the birds back inside their cages.
You are the one calling these walls—home.
Home is the wall embracing our portraits.
I mean to say I do not know which way is past.
I can close my eyes and tell you how long my hair has been darker;
a boy: a form of his father, I have all of his temper,
I swear I am not far from the spot that turned me fifteen.
But life as it rots will not mean many things.
If you’ve read this far, it is because you are still searching
for your role in this poem.
I want to say we are all trying out our own science,
but I lose courage.
I become more when I am wingless.
You can nod if you want, I switch places with all my poems.
I’ve learned that everyone is suffering from a form of longing—one way or the other.
What you call lonely is a man who has switched places with his shadow.
A thing is hidden because it cannot be seen—not because
no one has held it before.
You start to learn that any man can gather up his ashes,
but it wouldn’t meet the price for his soul.
It is easy to crave a thing after setting it on fire.
Memory is a way to stay in the past.
If you see someone who is hurting, find out why.
One of two things will stand out:
a ceiling, fur, and a fireplace.
Your mouth is filled with treasure.
Why is such music wasted on pestilence?