“Monologue in a Room with the Portraits of My Dead Brother” – Poetry by Nome, Emeka Patrick

The Raven – Odilon Redon, 1882

“Monologue in a Room with the Portraits of My Dead Brother” is Nome, Emeka Patrick‘s haunting & elegiac poem from our Winter 2019 issue.

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YOU WERE MY BROTHER UNTIL your eyes wore a dragon’s breath until your hands grew into an orchard of blood until your mouth unwound into a coffin. May the blood that hums in our veins like a river knifing past a dark forest bear me witness. I love you brother with all the birds psalming in my bones. I love you o brother. In this sanctuary that’s my mouth, brother there’s a prayer burning wild –a lamp in the wrinkled hands of a monk searching God in a dark room. You were my brother until the ten o’ clock news says a young man walks into a market with explosives strapped to his body like a life jacket. On the TV your face appears like a surprise & so it is. A scar glitters like a promise on your neck & so it is. How you got the scar: we were god’s descendants in a garden one afternoon when you said let’s play a game –a game of stones. Everything always started with you even the morning fajr. You hurled your stone but I ducked. Mine stabbed your neck into spittle of warm blood. We both knelt like two unfurling hibiscuses. We both cried like a night wind behind a chariot until the ambulance came. & today the scar glitters on every neighbour’s screen. That’s your lips o brother where prayers & ablutions grew wings & flew into the heavenly nest of a whistling God beyond. O brother the dancing firefly in a dark museum. O brother the lonely lamb where the forest is wildest. Until your eyes wore the skin of night & your hands grew into a garden of cold fallen leaves, you were the vision I never had. You were all the places I always dreamt of. You were the only prayer I learnt to keep in my heart before opening it into Allah’s eyes. O you were my only dear brother. How do I pray for your soul when every song that leads me to you is a dirge stuck on a raven’s beak?

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NOME, EMEKA PATRICK is a blxck bxy & student in the University of Benin, Nigeria, where he studies English language and literature. He is a recipient of the Festus Iyayi award for excellence (Poetry) in 2018. His works are published or forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gaze Journal, Crannóg magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in a small room close to banana trees and bird songs in Benin. He’s on twitter, say hi @paht_rihk

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